Forgive me if this one makes less sense than normal. I have been up since sometime around 0400 or 0430 this morning on account of another day of fun in the farms and fields of tomatos and cow manure, though I can only approximate the time because since my watch died I had to purchase the only alarm clock they have at the PX. The nice part about these alarm clocks is that they are the same ones I recall my grandmother having when I was little that we used to use to torture her atrociously obnoxious poodle, the kind (of alarm clock, not poodle) that are 12-hour wind-up and you better wind it about every 14-26 hours or it will stop, and the ringing can be heard six miles away (and to be certain, much to the joy of my neighbors, through the plyboard trailer walls). Regardless, I rarely know what time it actually is because I frequently forget to wind the thing so it is good my roommate went on the same convoy I went on today.
So the joy started out normally enough, with the general confusion of attaching to a unit that then attached itself to an Iraqi Army operation, which is always fun and exciting, and the sitting around and the getting lost because the Iraqis haven’t quite grasped that the distance on the map isn’t real-life distance, and overall it looked to be another normal day of driving aimlessly around a new and exciting part of central Iraq.
But the fun was just getting started. Since this was primarily an Iraqi operation, my usual partner and I started to get a little bored waiting around for them to bring us people to chit-chat with about bad men wearing sandals. When we get bored, we like to make things happen, because it is funnier that way. Our team leader lost track of us at some point as she wandered back to the truck to get some water, leaving us without the supervision that someone along the line should probably one day figure out we need, and we took the opportunity to investigate the farm that we had set ourselves up at. What does one find on a farm? Why, farm animals, of course! This particular farm had some chickens, some dogs that were not very happy to see us, and, much to our excitement, some cows.
Now, after last week’s adventure with the waste canal, as well as a few other fun experiences out here, I have long since realized that most things can be powerwashed from boots. So I really have little problem with walking up to an Iraqi cow in an effort to “Pat the moo cow on the nose,” which is what my partner and I decided would be the most practical and overall beneficial use of our time. The Iraqi Army personnel around were very entertained by this, as my partner was afraid of the dog barking angrily from behind the cow so he didn’t want to get that close, that and the large piles of fertilizer mixed with grass that surrounded the cow pen. Not one to be twarted by such things, I reminded him of our powerwasher and that rabies gets you to Germany and trudged on over, much to the dismay of the cow (the dog wandered a little further off to continue exclaiming his displeasure).
Now the cow seemed a little intimidated, probably by the weapons and the fact that strange people were mooing at it, not to mention the barking of a dog from somewhere about twenty feet away, so I decided to feed the cow. So I bent down and picked up some grass. I guess the grass was fertilized, because it occurred to me that it didn’t feel much like dried grass, and the cow seemed to be reluctant to eat it (my interpreter wandered further behind the pen to get me some fresh grass after the Iraqi Army guy nearby said, “Well that’s DIRTY grass, get it some CLEAN grass.” Hello? We are in Iraq. Everything is dirty. But I digress…). Long story short, we got the cow to eat the clean grass, we got our pictures taken petting the cow (still to the immense dismay of the cow, which was tethered anyway so had a rather dejected look on its face anyway), and my boots could stand a powerwash.
But this didn’t seem to kill enough time, so we decided instead to make friends with the dog, which clearly had no intention of making friends with us. My roommate had been kind enough to pack sandwiches for some of us, and I asked her if we could use it to make friends with the locals. So she gave me one, and then proceeded to videotape my partner and I attempt to make friends with the local dog populace. Piece by mayonnaise covered piece, we attempted to get the dog to first stop barking, then gradually approach us. We were only a few feet from having him give us rabies (and thus a trip to Germany, all expenses paid!) when another friend of ours wandered over and said that a one-star general was in the area and we should probably shorten our populace engagement operations and go look professional somewhere. Knowing how hard this is for us, we tossed the dog the rest of the sandwich (to the dismay of my roommate) and wandered off to find the general.
Keep in mind that I have now handled grass, fertilizer (probably before it became what would normally be called fertilizer), cow slobber (better than my partner, who was trying to help get a piece of grass that was stuck on the cow’s face and got sneezed on), warm mayonnaise and bits of soggy sandwich, as well as the usual Iraqi dust and grime. Well now, I certainly wasn’t going to wipe that on my PANTS, was I? I did attempt to do some damage control on a nearby wall, but then the general decided to thank us for our part in catching bad guys. What is a soldier to do but shake the proferred hand of a general when he decides he wants a handshake?
And thusly, today turned out to be a small bit of revenge on the Army. I’m sure someone on his staff had some hand sanitizer, which we have found conveniently pushes dirt around to the point where it just sits in clumps on the outside edges of your hands.
The rest of the day consisted of us arguing theology with one of the interpreters and attempting to figure out if a building we were in was actually in the process of construction or if it had recently been knocked down, because in most cases, there is no way to tell. All in all, I would say a productive mission and another great day for the Iraqi people… somehow…