Of all the memories I have of being in the Army, this is one of my favorites. Not sure why, but it’s got a bit of humor, and really epitomizes what the Army was. I remember this story because it’s soon Spring, and like most things in Spring, the lawn starts growing again. At my unit in Germany, there is grass everywhere, and like every other domesticated place, it has to be mowed. The decision of who gets to do this is easy- give it to the people that don’t have shit to do (namely my crew- the ‘Stingers’, for the missiles we were trained to fire).
Being a minority in a battery of hard working Hawk crew members, we almost always get the shaft. Work is usually divided into two spheres- actually doing it, and coming up with creative ways to get out of doing it (we called it shamming). Anyway, so there’s the Tac site (that I mentioned earlier), and the garrison where we all slept and ate. Behind the basketball courts down in garrison has a fairly steep slope- close to about a 45 degree angle if I remember right, and obviously getting a lawn mower on that slope took a bit of Army ingenuity (especially given it’s not exactly smooth). SO, the trick here is to rig the lawn mower with some rope- tape up that top bar to keep it from turning off, and tie the rope around the wheels, and lower it down. The funny part is when it hits one of those big 6 inch dirt clods- it’s probably good you’re standing back when it chews one of those up. Bringing the mower back up is pretty hard work, so by pulling the left rope, you can get it to veer to the ’strip’ next to it on the right, and pull it up. NICE! Doing this for a hour or so in the sun gets old, and now it’s time to switch to ’sham’ mode.
One good thing about being a minority in a crew of Hawk people is that you invariably have a buddy from your crew sitting at the gate. When Sgt. Lamar would go to the tac site, we’d get notified, and turn off the lawn mowers, and go to our rooms to sleep. When Sgt. Lamar would start to head down from Tac site, the CQ runner would go to our rooms, and wake us up. From there, we’d splash some water on our uniforms (sweat), and fire up the lawn mowers. Sgt. Lamar would then come over to inspect, and see that we were sweating good, and we’d then say “Hey seargent Lamar- would you be ok with us taking a break?” He would then give the okay (this is the same seargent that said “If you want the job did, you gotta did it yourself”) keep in mind, this is actually his level of education showing. Anyway, we’d turn off the mowers, and relax. By that time, it was the end of the day.
So the key with shamming, is that you have to mix it up a bit. The second tactic came to me while we were taking one of these breaks. I had a buddy that went and got me a Dr. Pepper. So I’m sitting there, drinking my soda, and looking at the lawn mower, then looked back at my soda, and back to the lawn mower. Hmmmm.. I have an idea. So I fired one up, and opened up the gas tank, poured a healthy ‘glug’ of Dr. Pepper, and let it run. Everyone in my crew was laughing at what I was doing. About 30 seconds later, the mower starts to peter out, and chonk! – it freezes up. Perfect- no lawn mower, no mowing. “Hey Sgt. Lamar- looks like the lawn mower crapped out- what should we do?” “Well, take it to motor pool, and go and do some training.” “Okay!”. This brilliant tactic came crashing down when (after the third time I think) he said “Okay, if those lawn mowers die again, you’re going to be out here mowing the lawn with hand shears.” Okay, at least we still had the never-fail tactic of hiding somewhere, and sleeping until lunch.