Chasing Alpha – Chapter FOUR (D)
This is a very good, a very scary and very *maybe* bad thing all at the same time. I do not write in diaries or journals since I believe things should only be written if they are intended to be read. Giving away too much about my personal thoughts or feelings is a recipe for disaster. Maybe they would not be something too bad, but also someone will probably be too nosey to leave things private alone which leads to a whole viper pit of trouble.
The difference in writing now rather than any other time is for the fact it really is intended to be read. It will be a testament to our squad and all that surrounds it. I will probably forget it will be read, but I am aware at the start. I do not feel anything else to hide and this is probably only for my teammates. My crew, my brothers of the sand and blood. All of those are the same thing. We are all one, through thick and thin. It is most like a real family. More than many people will ever experience I think. Family is good.
All my life I think I was seeking a family. I say that looking back now. I always seem to be better at seeing an answer when it’s in front of me rather than when it is up ahead. It’s kind of like driving and that exit pops up. Can’t go backwards so it is a missed opportunity. Take the next exit and hope you aren’t too far off course to get back on the right track. Just like now. The track was family.
For me, I have a family, but it’s more as the family tree than sitting down for a big turkey dinner or something. To maybe best relate, I am more the one who is staring at the family tree rather than being the one to climb it or join in rather. There has always been a VIP sort of feeling in my family. Either a person was in or out. Not much leeway. Whether that is the truth or a fabrication makes no difference because it is how I honestly feel.
There was a pressure in my family to be a part of military service. It was a birthright that was supposed to have just existed. I was never told to do it or that it was in my best interest, but I was always cut off. I was not told I can’t have any desert, though I might look up and see everyone else eating sundaes suddenly. I wasn’t asked, but somehow I wa s excluded. If it was just a desert like the comparison, then I would have gotten off easily and not cared. This is not to complain. It is to illustrate my feelings since that is what I thought this whole project was about. This is the part about all the way up until I enlisted.
This is not a psychiatrist couch. I never had any real trouble growing up or formative years, whatever that is supposed to mean. It was really all about me growing up and being kind of isolated. That is the good and bad about where I lived. It was not where I could have a lot of friends. But I had a lot of land. The bright side of it all was being how it was like I owned my own forest.
We had this property. We still have it really, but I just don’t live with the clan anymore so to speak. Now they want me to. But when I was there I never felt like they did. But then again I returned from the land of sand, red tape, and improvised explosives at every turn. Would rather see my enemy head on. Or a single shot I never saw or felt. Professional courtesy from one to another even if they don’t know. But if he was good he would feel it. I felt it.
Back on task, it is the fact of service to duty and nation. Or doing it to fit in with the rest of the clan. My dad served, my uncle served, that’s my dad’s brother. And my grandfather also served. Different eras and different parts of wartime. However it worked out it was always during some sort of conflict or whatever. I think if there is killing, it’s basically war. I am not into what history books do or don’t say. I may have tried to be politically correct when I was younger but now that I am stateside and had my duty time, I think I am allowed to think whatever I want to now. That is the point of being in America really. You can say what you wish but still have to let people have their own opinions whether they are correct or not. As long as someone is not trying to convince me of something, then whatever is more than fine with me. I can always zone out and just shake my head enough to let the other think I am paying an insane amount of attention rather than just plain going insane. The last two things are directly influenced by family. I do already feel guilty about some of the things I said but I do not feel like holding it in, not this time.
As I was saying, I am for whatever someone wants to think. Live and let live, even though I served where people are not trying to intentionally let live. At least in the back of their minds they wish they were trigger squeezing. Guilty sometimes too during my time. I did not act upon it.
But the males in my family like to soapbox. It’s from that old saying to get up on a soap box and start talking and trying to gather a crowd to listen to whatever point. I would hear about it a lot but mostly from the women during family gatherings. “Ok,” to so and so. “Time to get off of our soap boxes for a little while.” Then usually having to give a reason. “Dinner’s coming to the table and it’s not going to wait for you to make your point.” Or, “You might as well come blow that hot air in the kitchen since the rolls are having trouble staying warm.” It all depended on who it was or what was being said. The family wasn’t really the type to have variety, so when something was funny once or heard by somebody then it got recycled. To their credit, any of the men who might have seemed offended would not really care so much since they could save face saying how old that phrase was or that the women folk needed to come up with some new excuse to quiet them down. I would laugh but on the inside. Was a little too scared to show my feelings in that way. Even if they were all known to be nice guys, nobody would ever want to intentionally cross them. Intentionally such as from their vantage point, not the offending party. Even when stuff was joked about, it seemed to have a way to backfire. That is more ways than one.
Most of the time as long as it was a big holiday, then a little bit of humor could slip through. Maybe it was because we’d have these big gatherings and there would be too many witnesses so best to mind manners. Or it was really a time to be thankful or have good cheer. Or they were all happier drunks than one might expect. Since it is a military and pro-gun clan, the happier the drunks are means the happier everyone in general is. And the same amount of family will be alive to return to the next occasion. Cuts down on the drama.
Anywhoo, there’s been a few occasions where something has gone sideways. Dozens actually. But the problem is most of it was just a lot of hollering or broken lamps, busted off furniture legs. That sort of stuff. Not really what good fun or sitcoms rely on. More like tense stuff that at least cools off almost as quickly as it started. Not right away, but stuff relaxing by the time an hour passes.
One of the scary ones that turned out to be funny was one of my more distant of relatives. We were opening up presents. It was Christmas I think. That is when the best nature of the worst behavior seems to surface. For a bunch of gun-toting pro-war guys, they all seem to be very into the message of peace on earth and the give men and women their collecting good will, even if it is with a pretty asinine sense of humor. If you see a tree of nasty, you could trace it deep down and see the little acorn that was planted was full of humor. I am terrible at making comparisons maybe, but it is the best I can do to illustrate with words. Plus I am a terrible drawer. Now don’t get me wrong at all. I am as second amendment as there is and all that. I only talk about pro this or that in an affectionate way. No need for them to preach to me since I am already in the choir. I am converted.
But anyway, there was a holiday and opening gifts was going on or someone was just handing something out. Someone gave this long gift. One of the women opened it up and it was this really nice walking stick. Like a stick cane, not curved but flat up and down. It was claimed that it was a house gift as a talking stick, not a walking stick. It was supposed to be so when the men are talking it up, only one can soapbox at a time to keep things more civil during occasions. People laughed and the women agreed and laughed. The woman tried to hand the stick over to her husband, but he didn’t want to take it. Nobody knew if he was funning or not with the rest of the clan. Instead he reached behind a chair he was sitting at, and freaked everyone out. The old man yanked out an M16 rifle and held it up in the air but not before cocking the thing. The metal sound chopped right through all the conversation and everyone swang their heads to look at him, the whole bunch of them slack jawed. “This is the only talkin’ stick I ever needed in my life to get by.” Then he started laughing in that old man can of Skoal a day way. The rest of the lot all laughed too either because it was funny or because everyone was relieved that nobody was going to be having to dig a slug out of some body part with an unfolded paperclip and whiskey of some form as an anesthetic. It was a bellyful but all was well that ended well on that one.
In the end of it all, that talking stick ended up with a handful of holes in it. Not all the same caliber, so the idea was a few of the men must have figured a way to clamp it to a tree and prove to each other what sort of crackshots they still were. Nobody knew until it was too late. There basically is an entire forest as the property looks. So one of the women the next morning came out to the porch and found a package giftwrapped and with a big old bow. They opened it up and there is the secret conspiracy. There was still enough of that stick to stay intact while it had some small caliber holes in it. Think it was around four or six to my recollection. Nobody knows who participated and nobody knows on top of that who wrapped it all up like that. It was a considerable effort especially for a group of mean. But that was what made it so funny. It is also why nobody ever said who participated. I had no part, but I think it’s still funny to this day. I may have been a little bit too young at that time but I was not often included in the so-called reindeer games. Not from the immediate family.
Most times people included me but it would not be my dad or uncle. It would end up being one of those I get pressured on knowing their name. Maybe they just didn’t know how to approach me or deal with feelings. But also I suspect more it is to do with that VIP thing about service. Even if I was under eighteen. Like I said, it was just something that hung in the air. But even that sometimes gave me a lot of pressure when I was asked. I would shoot with them or just generally hang out. And then the running joke would be asking if I was ever thinking of joining up for the service. It was a loaded question. I was a little kid and it started while I was unaware of course. Now loaded question is not as much of literal however. A play on words. But it was a barrel of TNT in ways and me as a little kid could have lit the match. Thanks goodness they had mercy or pity on me. One of those.
To set the scene, here is a true thing that happened. In our clan it’s a military family. I use clan by the way since it’s like a word bigger than family and also family friends or people that you look at as family even if not related. If we really started to double check our family tree we might lose a whole lot of branches. And I hate the word kin. It is too much like a hick or something. I am a normal person and not that. If I lived in the city they may call it a nature lover or wildlife enthusiast. Not a hick or hillbilly or son of the south. Whatever that derogatory stuff is. Racism can cut more than one way.
But anyway, there used to be a lot more events where the clan would get together but the men basically… Yeah. Few bad apples causes the bunch to have to watch sporting events elsewhere. Thanksgiving you always have to watch Dallas play and that is allowed. But what is now forbidden is the Army versus Navy annual football game. Some big brewhaha over something minor cause a ruckus unspoken in the family. And from then on, no more Army Navy games. The end.
It is important to point out because of that loaded question thing I had spoken of. Since there was a big amount of vets in the clan, none adhered to one branch. So there would be friendly and unfriendly teasing about what was best. One relative would ask if I was going into whichever area of the armed service and I would say maybe I would or be polite and say yes. Then it would be some sort of weird tug of war I never really fully understood. Not until I was a lot older and then it felt even more awkward. It was a good laugh for all but me. I just kept my head down and hoped it would be over with a slap on the back or a task to do.
The clan is fine. I am most comfortable when there is a large group like an occasion like that. Much happier group and I feel I have more allies there for however strange that sounds. It’s usually just watching a football game. Or shooting of course. That is always one of the best parts. I would train myself when I was young with a BB gun. There would be stories I’d hear my grandfather tell.
He was in World War Two. And he talked about the melon poppers they’d have there, the sharpshooters. They were mostly country folks. And very accurate. The story was most of them lived in rural areas or farms. I guess a bit like where I grew up, where there is a lot of wildlife if you seek it out. And the story goes the southerners made the best sharpshooters since they were raised not to waste ammo. The dad or whoever would give a kid five bullets let’s say. Then the kid had to bring back five creatures. Not four, but five. Otherwise he would be punished in whatever way was the most dramatic. Cutting a switch from a tree or whatever the standard was for him. So anyway, yeah. That is the reason.
I would take notice from those stories. I was never assuming I would be beaten from my family for THAT sort of thing. But I would practice with BB ball bearings. Most of the time targets. Or it would be a knot in a tree. It was something I’d just do. I am still an animal lover. If I draw down and pull from the crosshairs it’s for a higher purpose. Hunting or a version of eradication. Varmints or stuff for not hunting for eating basically. But taking a pew pew from a pistol or whatnot is much more humane than some things sold in the stores. I think it’s more honorable in a way to have a clean shot taken though. No separation between this life and the afterlife. One moment scurrying across terrain and the next moment poof, on a cloud. Not to sound that egotistical. It is not some major honor in the grand scheme of life to fall at my hand, but I do honor whatever target I am against whether in battle, peace time, or maybe even if a first person shooter game.
So anyway, I would do a lot of practice. LOTS. Beyond what most do, or even in public way. It was always private. Secretive. I never had a specific regimen or guide to practice. Just taught myself about patience and how to squeeze every last drop of it out. Patience and resilience prepared me for a lot in life, especially the unknown. But it was really one of the ways to cope with my immediate family. Endure and wait for things to subside, or knowing whatever feeling shall pass.
I knew in the clan I was not the best of all the shots. Besides such various positions as far as branches of the armed service are concerned, there were many levels they served and capacities. Not all of them are around either, from either old age or bad habits, or also not making it through a combat situation. One or two of them were counter snipers back in their heyday. Basically that meant… A counter sniper is a person who is called it to take out or neutralize a sniper already in position somewhere. Snipers are the one shot, one kill, all patience types. Sink into a position, nest up, and then the sniper becomes virtually unstoppable on a good day. The counter sniper basically has to do all of the above but be even better for the fact in theory a sniper can spot a counter sniper faster. At least a good one. So either of the two needs to be ten times better than the other. It is more a situation of who makes the first mistake. I say first because… Well, to be honest the first mistake is the last. Quick eye and quick finger action, and quick reaction and yeah… Idea is as soon as a sniper makes even one mistake that becomes the end to a career and a life.
The point was about marksmanship over skill in the field. But the idea is to illustrate I was by no means the best shot. I taught myself the skill to be underestimated. Always best to appear dumb when smart than the other way around. Someone may see my surroundings or geographic location and assume I am a gun polishing moonshine drinking backwoods ninny. But it is underestimation. A part of me likes the idea of estimating poorly. It has been and so shall will still be.
It worked amongst the clan also. Pretty much people wouldn’t watch all my practice. They may see me return home with food slung over my back, but they never tried to see how many shots it took to return in victory. I would go out hunting time and again with various family members. They could see my skill in the field, but it was not much to really show. Hunting is more about waiting a long period of time, and also to shoot at an often large target. That is to say usually when I am out hunting it’s a big game sort of excursion, just how it worked out. I was not afraid to. But I am more into the big game style than the birds. I like birds and can hit a moving target, and I sure hope so. But I like the tracking and stillness of the larger game. Not just popping shots in a herd. I am simplifying it but for me I prefer the stealth and being able to track and hunt all on my lonesome if I had to. I do not hunt alone usually, btu that was just how it turned out too. Practice? Yeah I do that alone. I am not the type who wants anyone to see how I practice. I have my own way and it works.
Obviously my practice pays off since I had a few of the clan take notice when I was put on the spot. Skills or underestimation, I do not know. As long as the end result is the same, I don’t not care since it is the family or the clan. In the service sure I want to be known pure on skill. But I think family is the most harsh on you, no matter who your family is or who you choose as your family. But the long and short of it was the fact at a few occasions I did seem to show off what I could do. Of the prompting of others. I do not just show my stuff unless there is a reason. Worthless to do it. How could I be underestimated otherwise?
Now without anymore distraction, there was still a story to tell about one of those differences of opinion within the clan. Once again this deals with a gift of sort. Not so much a gift as much as an object. It was not an official present like it was opened up from under gift wrapping. This one was just pulled out and presented as in a “ta-da” kind of way.
There was a point I was explaining my phrasing of soapboxing. It just meant as in being on the soapbox and usually that means lecturing on something nobody else wants to hear about or already agrees with. So there was this present or whatnot. Someone came in with something they were using as a basket and carrying whatever items inside of it. The slid the item out of the plastic trash bag and it ended up being this crate. It was an orange crate. A wooden box with slats and whatever, however they make them. Anyway, there was more to it of course. Otherwise there would be no way a normal orange crate would make an impression on someone.
This was remade. It was very painstakingly designed for as detailed it was. It was painted all white. But then on it were all of these soap company box designs. There was the Ivory Snow image of a mom and her baby. There was a little bear, the Snuggle one. And there was a kid with a blanket wrapped across which was Downy I think. And a couple others which were word logos but just said SOAP on them instead of the product, which seemed even funnier for some reason. There was the Tide sunburst design swirly thing. And another was a yellow kind of design that was basically the Ajax logo. There may have been a lot more but it was all that rushed back to my mind when I started to remember it.
Keep in mind this was a handmade gift. It was all painted by hand from someone. It was a pretty amazing feat. I guess that is the sort of thing called folk art I think, kind of done in a down-home kind of way. Usually in advertisements of something they’ll say it was painstakingly done. I would say that is an accurate description. The artist was good, and everything looked almost just like a photo but just off by a little bit th at just the human eye understands why. It was impressive.
The whole joke was the fact this was made to be a soapbox. A soapbox for whoever the hot-winded or long-winded person who wanted to go all sawed off on some particular topic. The women all thought it was hilarious and the men laughed at it too in a good manners kind of way. It was sat on the floor and people made random remarks. Whoever it was, I forgot the right person but it was said how the biggest man in the house was supposed to suddenly have an opinion and need to use the soap box. Basically to stand on it and flatten the thing. The women all started to scream scold the men at the same time. It was a nice item and they need to respect the spirit of the gift. There was no peace in the house until the men ALL promised to not step on it to break it. Peace was basically the fact nobody was going to eat anything until the women got their collective ways. Lock a kitchen down and those men will straighten right up as far as I witnessed. Taking away dinner works for grown ups too so it seems, not just kids. The worst they did was use it as a footstool here and there. At least a while.
It was all about the next morning. One of the women thought she saw something not far from the house. It looked as though someone overnight put a wishing well outside. There was a little A frame sort of roof and some struts. Basic design. But when she got closer, the structure didn’t pass for wishing. It ended up being the top shingled like a tiny roof and rested on the soap box of all the issue the evening before. But it was full of manure, basically. Well the human kind. Whoever it was responsible, which was more than one to say the least . The guilty people ended up doing their best to fill that orange crate up best they could. And I mean that in the outhouse sense.
There are much nicer stories about my family but for some reason I had almost none of that shine through, but I am sure it will soon. Probably once I lay down experience in the military life, the one place where I ended up having the best feeling as far as being a part of my family’s inner circle.