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.