Tuesday, March 2, 2021

It could have been a MASH episode.


This Post was published originally on 9/9/2020.

For unknown reasons it failed to appear on my Blog page.

If you read it previously, I apologize for my confusion.


It could have been a MASH episode.

 My last post received numerous comments, so I decided to relive another USAF memory.

If you were a MASH TV fan, you’ll recall the physicians held the rank of Captain but were untrained in military customs and courtesies. I worked with several Captain-doctors in the AF.

 One day a lab tech noticed USAF Air Police swarming the building across the parking lot from our building. Three Captain-doctors and I stepped outside to watch the show.

It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened—A rhesus monkey had escaped.

The building next door was a long rectangle one-story with a breeze way separating two halves.

In military precision, they planted a tree 4-feet away from each of the rectangle’s four corners and one, centered in the breezeway.

When the monkey escaped from the entry door, it saw the tree in the breezeway, and climbed it. USAF officials couldn’t let a lab animal escape and called the Air Police (APs) to capture it.

 The first two APs (affectionately called Apes by the enlisted men) who arrived tried climbing the center tree. The monkey jumped from the tree to flat 1-story roof (a typical commercial roof with a tar-base covered with pea-gravel and a 2-foot-high parapet all around with a galvanized tin cover on the top-edge. It created a nice raceway for the monkey to scamper around the edges.

Two other APs climbed the exterior ladder to the roof and chased the monkey to a tree at the far corner. When the APs on the ground rushed to the tree at the corner, the monkey ran across the ground to the next tree and climbed it, again jumping to the roof.

I’m sure you can visualize the scenario, the APs on top chase the monkey across the roof, where it jumps into a tree. The two APs on the ground run around the building and the monkey runs across the ground and up the tree at the far corner and then up to the roof again. The APs and the monkey played “ring around the Rosie” for the next twenty minutes, resting only when the APs grew tired.

The Captain-doctors and I carried chairs outside to sit in the shade and enjoy the show--until.

A new AP arrived, and when he stepped from of the vehicle, he racked a 12-GA shotgun.

The APs were getting serious about not letting the monkey escape.

 My buddy Phil and I crossed the parking lot.

Capt-doctor Phil asked, “Trying to catch the monkey?”

“What the hell a think we were doing, … Sir.” the AP sergeant said.

“Looks like PT,” pause, “but is it for you or for the monkey?”

“Sir, please step away and let us do our job,” the AP sergeant said.

“Do you want me to catch the monkey for you?” Phil asked.

 While Phil talked to them, I entered the lab building and retrieved a small transport cage with fresh banana pellets with a water sippy-bottle attached and a length of rope. I tossed a rope to one of the APs on the roof. He hauled up the cage while Phil climbed the ladder to the roof.

Captain-doctor Phil told the APs to climb down and guard from the ground at the four corners.

Phil sat on a roof-mounted AC unit with the transport cage opening facing away from him as he held the spring-loaded cage door open. He faced away from the cage because, by instinct, animals watch for a hunter’s eyes and won’t approach as long as a hunter “eyes” the monkey.

In less than five minutes, the monkey— hungry and thirsty—entered the cage for a drink and a hand-full of banana pellets. Phil let the cage door slam shut. Problem solved.

Phil carried the cage to the roof’s edge tied on the rope and lowered to one of the lab’s animal handlers to return it to the lab inside.

After Phil climbed to the ground, the lead AP Sergeant asked, “Why didn’t you do your trick in the first place … Sir?”

“The monkey was too excited at being outside. I needed someone the chase him around awhile until he got tired, hungry, and thirsty. You did a great job of running him until he got tired.”

 As we walked away, I said, “Kind of pushy weren’t you?”

Phil smiled. “What could he say? I out-rank him.”

“You do, but he carried a loaded shotgun.”

Phil frowned. “I forgot about that.” After a moment, he smiled, “At least, I saved the monkey.”

“That what you want on your tombstone?” I asked as we sauntered away laughing.

 As many of you who served this great nation know, military life was hours (days) of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. I was one of the lucky ones and spent my military time doing “monkey business.”

 Thanks for riding along.

Frank Kelso

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