They bought the bullet and they
paid with hand grenades
--All My Friends Are Dead,
I'd rather be dead than singing
"Satisfaction" when I'm forty-five
On the way to a recent gun show, Ranger's thoughts went to the National Match M-1 rifle that was the National Championship Rifle of the 1969 National Matches at Camp Perry, Ohio. That rifle was won by SFC Elmer Mundon.
The rifle then passed into Ranger's possession as the result of a poker bet in which Mundon needed $200 to cover the pot. Ranger happily obliged, Mundon lost, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The rifle is still in my collection, and thinking on it reminds me of the people present at that fateful game -- eight, just like the number of rounds held tightly in the M-1's en bloc clip: In addition to myself and SFC Mundon there was SSG Melvin Thomas; SSG Dick Bartels; SPC 4 Warren Wiley; and SFC Don Taber, SFC Haygood Tatum and SFC Bill Thornton (all three of whom served as snipers in Vietnam).
This was a group of truly shifty and slick men, with the exception of Thornton and Wiley (despite his name). All required a close leadership eye -- to include myself. The number of questionable things I learned from them defies description. All were old Army soldiers, and the die was broken after them.
These guys were so slicky boy that when and if they agreed to anything Ranger said, he knew immediately that he was either in the kill zone or rapidly approaching one. All of them have since passed on; Ranger's the last gambler left.
These days he seldom if ever gambles (at the table). He is left with a rifle and his memories. Like a bet, he believes a memory is something one should not lose. When he is gone, a long ago card game in old wooden barracks will become another piece of dust in the winds of time.
Nobody can understand the attachment an old Ranger has for a piece of wood and steel. A little tale from an old man who never thought he'd get to be an old man.