Friday, April 17, 2009
Yesterday, our last full day here in Oklahoma, we went to the town of Apache to be guests at the opening day of the annual Rattlesnake Rodeo--a carnival with rides and junk food like any other carnival, but the central attraction is the rattlesnakes.
First we go into a building with a ten by twenty foot by four foot high wooden enclosure. Inside the enclosure are two retired men in boots and coveralls carrying hooks. Also in the enclosure are 50 or so rattlesnakes piled and slithering against the walls and occasionally striking at the men when poked. The more talkative of the men tells us about the snakes, their venom, their rattles with a show-and-tell format that involves holding the angry animals behind their heads and showing them around to the spectators.
At the end of the presentation, the silent handler puts a half-dozen snakes in a box and sends them to the building next door--the snake butcher shop. So we all troop next door and watch as the handlers at that show select a snake, show its markings, then cut off its head with an ax.
The guy with the microphone headset then shows us how the head keeps biting while a woman in an apron hangs the rest of the snake above a sink. While he explains she guts and skins the snake and gets the $15 per pound meat ready to sell.
If I can hook up to one of the cameras in a few days, and if we get internet access, I'll try to post some pictures. In the meantime, you can watch a video on the blog site of one of the other soldiers in my unit.
Last month we got cases of Pop Tarts from somewhere. I heard it was test marketing. So last Monday, I could send my wife home with Triple Chocolate Pop Tarts and MREs left over from field training for Nigel. He was very happy with his high-calorie pile of treasures.
On Good Friday we were released to go on our four-day pass at 1400 hours. The other five companies that make up our battalion slept late in anticipation of a long day of travel.
Echo company was up and out in front of the barracks at 0520. During the 10 weeks we were training for deployment Echo did more soldier-skills training than any other company in the battalion. This is partly because we are the company most likely to do security and go outside the wire on the ground and partly because our commander wants us all to be up to Army standards on physical training and soldier skills.
We were the only company that got up before 5am for PT three days each week and the only one that had remedial PT three more days each week. We were the only company on the rappel tower, the confidence course and some of the other training I have written about over the last five weeks. In fact, complaints from the other companies led to us holding formation for morning PT 1000 feet behind the building instead of out front. They were complaining about the noise we made as a exercised.
But on Good Friday we formed up out front and yelled "Echo" at the top of our 100 voices as we formed up. The leader for the warmup calisthenics is a former singer in a Metal band. He growled out the cadence as we stretched and exercise.
Usually we run out toward the ranges. On this morning we ran behind the barracks, looped around the motor pool then ended with a complete half-mile circle around the barracks area. We sang cadence the entire time we were near the barracks.
Because of us, no one had to miss breakfast.