Jim Anton Remembers LZ Margo (continued)
The Waterhole and a Stick of Gum with My Friend
One of the companies defending that side of the perimeter ran canteens of water to us from the waterhole. I drank until I couldn't take another sip. Good thing being first over the top. Lots of full canteens being offered.
Water hole and mortar pit on LZ Margo. Photo courtesy of Eric Smith.
A friend I'd gone through training with joined me as I headed back to my little cave.
I remembered something in my pocket rubbing my leg and reached in and pulled out what had once been a stick of gum, now a wadded, sodden piece of gum, paper, and foil. But it was probably the only piece of gum within a hundred miles. I tore the gum in half and my friend and I sat in front of my cave trying to separate paper from gum.
While we fooled with our task I joked with him about his run in with [Echo Company Commander] Captain Cregan. One morning while we were dug in up in the high canopy my friend opened fire with his M-16 at movement in front of him. No fire was returned and none of the rest of us saw a target. Capt. Cregan arrived quickly and wasn't real happy.
He said he had a recon team out that way. He then told my friend he could keep a magazine in his 16 but no round in the chamber to cure his trigger happy tendency. I know this order was immediately ignored as I saw him pull his bolt back and chamber a round as soon as the captain walked away.
We spent far more time than would seem logical for very little gain on the gum front. Finally we each popped the gooey mess in our mouths and got a little flavor.
My friend headed for the waterhole and I relaxed for a bit. My socks and boots were soaked so I pulled them off and set them next to me to dry. You really can't avoid jungle rot on your feet but you can lessen the damage by trying to keep your feet as dry as you can.
I'd snagged a box a box of C rations on my way to my cave. I had to walk by the LZ where there was a big pallet of them. I didn't look at the type of meal I'd grabbed but now saw it was labeled Ham & Lima Beans. This was the one type I'd never tried. The word was they were the worst of the meal options. But I was too tired to walk back and swap it for something else. So I opened the can, cut vents in a small can, tossed in a heat tab, lit it and set the larger can on top to cook.
I was exhausted, hungry, dirty, but satisfied. We'd conducted a long range patrol along the DMZ and handled ourselves very professionally, I thought. As my meal cooked one of the guys came over and dropped off two cans of machine gun ammo and told me Capt. Cregan wanted me back with guns the next day. OK with me.
I felt pretty good overall leaning back in the dirt, barefoot, comfortably exhausted, waiting for my food to get hot.
I never got to eat that meal.