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THE TRAVAILS OF PRIVATE PICK

There used to be a character in Lil' Abner called Joe Btfsplk, who walked around with a rain cloud over his head. Wherever he went, misfortune was sure to follow. Such a character in real life was Private Pick. Pick was in my company during basic training at Fort Ord. He was in a different platoon from mine, but everyone knew him because his name was screamed over and over again by every sergeant given the task of disciplining us raw recruits. The poor guy had a lot going against him. Physically, he was weak and flabby and had an awful skin condition that probably repulsed the opposite sex and I suppose caused teasing among his peers. Secondly, he just never could do anything right. If we were supposed to to march left right left, he marched right left right. If someone was at ease during attention, it was Private Pick. I never learned his first name. On a march, the sergeant would suddenly command double time, which meant we went into a trot. After a few hundred feet, Pick would fall behind and you would hear the familiar NCO scream "Pick!" During hand grenade training, we were to pull the pin and toss the grenade over a wall. Naturally, Pick's grenade bounced off the wall and back towards us. A quick sergeant alertly grabbed it in time and tossed it to safety. During tear gas exercise, he couldn't get his gas mask on correctly and tears were streaming down his face. After train fire on the firing range, we would empty our ammunition and then be commanded to point the weapon skyward and pull the trigger. What you heard were a series of clicks. One day there was an alarming sound that was not a click. A gun discharged a bullet. Everyone looked to Pick, who was indeed the guilty party. Everyday it was "Pick! Pick! Pick! Pick!" a sound we were only too accustomed to. All the officers and NCO's were constantly on the poor guy who had no business being in the service.

After a few weeks, the company had an open house where parents and wives could visit, then take their soldiers off post for the weekend. Pick's parents were not like any other. The man accompanying his mother, either his father or step father, was a very famous movie actor, whose name I will not mention in order to protect the innocent. Anyhow, he was very prominent in films of the 1940's and early fifties and had won an academy award for a very prestigious movie. The brass went crazy. They gave the family and their son a place at the table of honor, treated them like royalty. When the weekend was over and we all returned to the barracks, things changed. Pick was no longer in formation. He no longer stood inspection. He no longer carried a rifle, did not march, do KP, clean toilets, stand fire guard, or even attend classes. Private Pick could daily be seen working in the garden, pruning, picking weeds, watering the flowers, or sitting on the barrack steps. Celebrity had reared its ugly head, but resulted in a benevolent conclusion.

As far as I know, Pick was not discharged, at least not after basic training. I happened to sit with him on the bus to Los Angeles. He was really quite a nice young man and appeared to be cultured. We had a nice conversation and he was on his way to some other fort to fulfill his obligation. I dread to think how he must have done plying his MOS.

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