Up Jumped A Monkey
J. D. Pendry
It’s been somewhat hectic here in the Bunker, which explains the lack of BunkerTalks this past month. Actually, it’s because I’ve been trying to broaden my horizons as they say. Ever since 1SG Pedro Olivari put me in a headlock in 1972 and drug me to Camp Red Cloud’s education center it seems I’ve been going to school. Funny how that works isn’t it. Top’s only interest was that I get a GED. “You can’t do anything without it my son.” Top called all of us “my son”; that’s how he treated us too. Anyway, after writing papers, preparing for exams and all of the other stuff that goes along with “higher” education (they don’t have geriatric frat houses I’m told) I needed a brain break. Therapeutic brain breaks for me usually come in the form of reminiscing and writing something with no social redeeming value.
I was on the treadmill tonight after work. I end up there most nights, especially when Su tells me how my belly often makes it through the door before the rest of me. I have an old stereo set in the garage where the treadmill is. It is so old that it has an 8-track tape player on it. The 8-tracks are long gone, but the FM radio still works just fine. In case you’re wondering, I purchased it from the PX at Yongsan in 1975. It was top of the line, quadraphonic, four speakers…. Naturally, I have the radio tuned in to the oldies station. Actually, I don’t think it’ll play any tunes recorded after 1975. I’ll have to check sometime to see. With the treadmill cranked up, and my favorite geriatric rockers playing Satisfaction in the background my mind began to time warp on me. I started thinking about my favorite double time Jody cadences. I tried to work the background music in, but “I can’t get me no, hey, hey, hey” wasn’t exactly working so I tuned out the lyrics and focused on the thumping of the music. Sort of like the whump, whump, whump that emanates from the teenagers’ cars in front of your house in the middle of the night. When you’re about to bust 50, middle of the night arrives around 8:15.
The first cadence that popped into my mind was Up jumped a monkey from a coconut grove, he was a mean mother… that’s where I started humming the tune instead of mouthing the actual words (and it had nothing to do with my shortage of wind). I tried to recall the last time I heard that cadence in its original form coming from a formation of running soldiers. It’s been many years. The original form (the one I was humming) won’t pass anyone’s PC check (and I don’t mean pre-combat). I thought about how Jody calling has changed through the years. I didn’t know if they were good or bad changes, but they were certainly interesting ones because they paralleled other changes in the Army.
When I was a cruit in basic training, and “A Yellow bird with a yellow bill, landed on my windowsill, I lured him in with crumbs of bread, and smashed his mother… head!” By the time I was a Drill Sergeant a few years later we were smashing his little yellow head and under strict guidance to mind our language. I’m not sure what, if anything, we’re smashing nowadays. I suppose one difference was that we had women around when I was a Drill Sergeant, not so when I was a cruit. At least I thought that made a difference until I heard a female Drill Sergeant marching a female platoon and singing her version of “my girl’s a chorus girl…” she changed girl to guy and after that she made a grown Drill Sergeant blush. I asked her if it was OK to sing that type of cadence and she replied “Shit JD, that’s clean.” Then she broke into “Hey, hey, babba reeba! I wish all the GIs, were nails in a wall, and I was a hammer, I’d bang’em all…” She told me later that when it was all women trained by women it was much worse. I told her the same applied to the men. The changing of our cadence calling is an example of how our Army has transformed itself over the years.
Another interesting phenomena is the chant, motto or whatever the appropriate terminology is for what units yell out in unison when called to attention. Again, when I was a cruit and a Drill Sergeant called the company to attention, we sounded off with one word, “SNAP!” When I was a Drill Sergeant the company sounded off with “BRAVO!”, appropriate, I suppose, since we were B Company. As I think back, I was a cruit in H Company, often referred to as Head Company, which likely explains why we sounded off with SNAP. When I attended my son’s graduation from basic training in 1996, I was standing nearby when a Drill Sergeant called his unit to attention. They must have gone on for two or three minutes. The men would sound off with something, then the women would offer up some “whoop, whoops”. They even added some choreography. They’d dip, bop, clap hands, throw in some more whoops and start over again. It was a long ways from “SNAP!” about 25 years to be exact. It more aptly resembled the glee club at a high school pep rally than it did a military unit. But, then again, my son had pizza and concerts during basic training.
Cadences in my cruit days focused you on the reality of the day. “I wanna go to Vietnam, I wanna kill some Charlie Cong, Hey, Hey all the way.” When I was a cold warrior Drill Sergeant, we didn’t have anyone to focus on, and I expect a formation of soldiers running around today singing I want to kill would cause multiple aneurisms among our country’s politically correct elite and media. I can see the headlines now “Soldiers being encouraged to kill! ACLU demanding Congressional investigation!” I don’t know how bayonet training is conducted today, but I can remember that when a Drill Sergeant asked us “What’s the spirit of the bayonet?” we responded with, “To kill, kill, kill with cold cruel steel!”. Did that add to the training, probably not, but it did constantly remind us that we were training to kill. A reality I find too often over looked because America believes war happens through a bombsight camera on CNN. It’s the most rudimentary form of war that decides conflicts. A concept one must grasp before he or she goes to war.
I apologize for going off on a tangent there. We’ll save that train of thought for another time and get back to cadence calling. Not only do I sing cadences between wheezes while on the treadmill, I sing them in the shower too. This practice endears me to my wife, especially since I realize that one must call cadence loudly. I also sing them, or whistle them to myself at work. This is fun. Try this sometime when surrounded by civilians. Sing, “Rollin, rollin, rollin, oh my feet are swollen… then check the crowd. If anyone is looking back and grinning you know that he is mentally responding, don’t let your dingle dangle dangle in the dirt…
In the spirit of the season, I do have something to get off my mind. “Yes Top, the bar we built in the company Day Room was made from the CG’s Merry Christmas sign, but I know nothing about the Christmas tree that’s missing from the officer’s mess.”
From Su and I, thank you for serving our country. We hope that you and your families have a wonderful and safe holiday. And as we say here in wild wonderful, remember the Reason for the Season.