SIX LUCKY MEN
At Bien-Hoa, the popularity of the garbage run was legend. Every Thursday,
six men would be chosen to ride shotgun atop a heaped deuce-and-a-half
to a jungle dumping ground. Their purpose, other than riding shotgun
in the event of an enemy attack, was to open the tailgate and push the
garbage out with their snow shovels. The six were chosen by roster.
But the real reason for the garbage run's popularity with the men was
the garbage run game. Long ago, no one knew exactly when, the game had
been invented by some of the men who had preceded them. The game was
financed by the company's enlisted men's club. For every beer or shot
of whiskey sold, ten cents in MPCs was thrown into a box that became
known as the Garbage Run Pool.
Each run was allotted two cases of bar soap and a case of coke for
ammunition. Once the six men chosen were finished with their
garbage duties, they would break open the cases, sit up along the sides
of the deuce-and-a-half box, and peg coke cans and bar soap at the
scavengers. Ten cents was awarded for a hit, twenty cents for the
genitals, fifty cents for the head, and five dollars for a knock out. There
would be the usual arguments over who hit whom where, but they
would never argue seriously. They had too much fun to be serious.
And the scavengers were like huge rats to the men, huge rats with
yellow teeth and squinty black eyes. They would dig around with
their bags dragging behind them, hunched over, like all the old men
and women who haunt town dumps everywhere, pelted with rocks
and taunted by children. And since the scavengers welcomed the coke
and soap as potential black market merchandise, they made excellent
targets. When the throwing would begin, they would stand exposed,
their arms at their sides, their legs wide apart, and their crotches
thrust forward. They knew a good thing when they saw one; they
knew what the men were after.
And sometimes fights would break out among the scavengers over
a bar of soap or a coke, or over some half-eaten sandwich or half-full
can of vegetables. They would hit each other with their fists and claw
at each other's eyes. They would bite and scream and wail like
banshees. Once the six men returned to the company, triumphantly
riding the sides of the truck, their weapons brandished like the
Resistance entering Paris, they would collect their money and spend
all afternoon and evening in the club, drinking their winnings.
And it probably would have continued forever, except that one
raucous afternoon in '70, the week's lucky six went out drunk without
their coke and soap and played the game for real.