It’s early morning in dry season. Third squad sits cross legged on a carpet of bamboo leaves. We light small chunks of C-4, boil water in canteen cups, mix in powdered coffee, drink and savor the bitter brew. We make jokes, toss C-ration cigarettes to our Kit Carson Scout. His name is Diem Diem but we call him Jim Dumb. Seventeen, thin and dark complected, on patrol our former enemy walks third in line. “Beau coup NVA,” he says, spotting week old enemy foot prints. But we like this black haired, dark-skinned young man and treat him with respect.
D’wee was better. On point he walked fast and signaled danger by flicking his wrist. He knew the jungle’s dark secrets, and kept us safe. But D’wee is dead and now there’s Jim, who smokes and smiles and wouldn’t know a bunker complex from a ’55 Chevy.
Jim Dumb drops the slender five butt packets into a clear plastic bag filled with Newport Menthols, Winston Filter Tips, No Filter Camels, Lucky Strikes, and green US Army matchbooks whose small print shouts “Close cover before striking.” He crinkles the bag shut, drops it into his pack, plucks the cigarette behind his ear, stuffs it into his mouth, lights it, takes a long drag, spews out smoke, strokes his hairless chin, looks at me. Continue reading Meet Jim Dumb