“EarthDay* 1970”


Pineapples ready

but the field is overgrown:

red splotches on fruits!

 

*(The nation’s first Earth Day – though we did not know it at the time – I spent on patrol with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, in a little offshoot valley of the Que Son Mountains in Quang Nam Province, Republic of South Vietnam.  It was a beautiful Spring morning, just past the ever-lasting Winter monsoon rains and that gorgeous, melding of mountains, valleys and plains and coastal river deltas country was in full fecundity.  The platoon I chose to walk with as we searched old battlefields left to lie fallow – yet again in an ever recycling pattern more than one millennium pastward, had drawn the point assignment for the company.  I was out front of point taking pictures – as I often jested – of the next guy to get waxed so I could send them home to his mom and dad: lockerroom humor in green.  I noticed as we passed through a wrecked and ruined hamlet’s lone unsurrendered stray hootch still standing albeit with gaps and collapses, a long-since sundered fenceline pointed to a patch of something shiny and somehow familiar gone to wild and irregularity.  Pineapples!  Even though it’s not mid-Summer back in the states, these wonderful gifts to the palate gone gray and grumpy – C Rations and purloined Army Long-Range Patrol dehydrated rations will do that to a chap – were approaching pickability.  The point squad also noticed.  Sent back word.  Soon we had spread out into the treelines and a few brave (or foolhardy) souls struggled through the weeds, the saplings just sprouting and over old mortar and artillery and sometimes around bigger bomb craters to reach the twenty or so surviving pineapple plants, almost all showing fruit atop the spike that came up from the  long, pointy leaves with a sticker on the end and sawtoothed reminders to watch your pinkies – and brownies – as you reached down to pluck a leaf off the top of each suspectedly ripe pineapple – a ready-to-eat-Now! pineapple will yield its innermost top leaf easily, signifying its ripeness.  But when I reached for my leaf I noticed the pineapples and leaves and sticky-spiny lower-body leaves all were covered with red, shiny – though shriveled still recognizable – splotches that only cold be congealed blood.  No dragmarks, no bodies, no booby traps. No clue.  None of us harvested any fruit. Disappointed, yet somehow relieved, we left our field and the squad, the platoon and the company passed by without further comment.)

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