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Shalom and Sheiks: 73 - A Bumpy Ride

...Some Americans bore a charmed life. One day I saw Floyd step out of his pick-up truck. There was nothing particularly unusual about that except that he had inadvertently overlooked the fact that, at the time, his truck was travelling at about 45mph....


John Powell tells of drunken madness in the desert.

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There was never a shortage of incidents taking place in the Gang. At dinner one night I was sipping my tomato soup when two Americans, Tex and Frank, had a colourful fight. They were sitting on opposite sides of the long mess table, facing each other and near me.

"Ah knows that you don't like me, Tex."

"Nope! It ain't that ah don't like you, Frank, it's just that you won't let me like you, you baastid!"

With the termination of this stimulating, scintillating, intellectual dialogue, it was on: the two of them leapt to their feet, their chairs crashing over backwards as they faced each other across the table. At once, Frank reached for his flick knife like lightening; even more quickly, Tex grabbed the glass water jug on the table and, swinging it up, shattered it across Frank's forehead. Blood flowed freely from the deep gash, mixing with the water from the jug and creating a spreading crimson lake on the tablecloth.
Ignoring it, Frank grabbed everything within reach to throw at Tex, who was doing likewise. With the broken-glass jug handle still in his hand he flung it at Frank and hit him on the cheek, gashing it open and adding to the bloody tidal wave cascading onto the tablecloth. A barrage of missiles hurtled across the table; plates, cutlery, pepper pots, glasses, bread roils and convenient chairs sailed, airborne, across no-man's land to strike their targets with telling accuracy. I beat a very hasty and rather undignified retreat. If two Yanks wanted to kill each other they were free to do so as long as they excluded me, for I hate the sight of blood when it is my own.

Others present were, to their credit, far braver than I. Advancing bravely into the line of fire and displaying courage beyond the normal call of duty, they separated the warring parties, just in time, as they were running out of ammunition.

Dragging each of them away from the battlefield, they half carried them both to Mike. Frank had stripped off his shirt and was trying to stem the tidal wave of blood still pouring from his forehead together with a minor flood from his cheek. Tex had blood flooding from his nose, evidence of a guided missile achieving a direct hit, together with the hilt of a knife sticking out of his shoulder; at sometime in the exchange, Frank's knife had scored a bull's eye. Tex was also saturated in blood, until I realised that my plate of tomato soup had disappeared.

Frank had flung it over Tex. I wondered how long it would take for Mike to diagnose tomato soup. I moved to the far end of the table to complete my meal. Since that day I have never been particularly fond of tomato soup. I have analysed the cause as being due to its close resemblance to blood.

Some Americans bore a charmed life. One day I saw Floyd step out of his pick-up truck. There was nothing particularly unusual about that except that he had inadvertently overlooked the fact that, at the time, his truck was travelling at about 45mph. Like a gigantic tumbleweed he rolled and bounced along the desert track enveloping himself in a dust cloud as he did so.

Following in our car, Hassan skidded to a halt and we leapt out to help Floyd. We smelt the whisky fumes as we helped him to his feet but when we let go of him he fell flat on is face. Between us we hefted him into the back of the Humber as he muttered and stuttered, "Hellsh! Thet sure was (hic) a bumpy (hic) ride."

We took him back to camp and deposited him, fully clothed, complete with his stetson hat, under the cold shower, instructing the mess-room boy to watch him and make sure he did not drown. Later, when Floyd sobered up, he could not remember the incident and wanted to know with whom he had had the fight that gave him his cuts and bruises.

Other Americans were not so fortunate. One lost an eye from a flying metal splinter, while another was crushed when a stack of steel pipes slipped and cascaded down on him. He had to have a leg amputated.

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