Don't Squat With Your Spurs On
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Challenge - Colloquialisms Challenge
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Portrayal of a Canon Character - Sergeant Andrew Carter
2005 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Original Character - Sergeant Crocker
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Colonel Robert E. Hogan leaned against the barracks wall, lazily watching the volleyball game being played by a small group of prisoners at Stalag 13. He let his eyes travel over the compound. Not much appeared to be happening. Some prisoners played simple games of horseshoes or catch with their balls and mitts, while others just walked slowly about the grounds, enjoying the chance to move around and talking to pass the time. The tower guards stifled bored yawns, looking occasionally at their watches to see when their shift would end.
Hogan brought his attention back to the game for a moment, and then let his thoughts drift inward. The relaxed and peaceful atmosphere of this camp was a brilliant disguise. The Germans never guessed that below them lay an elaborate system of tunnels and rooms, or that Papa Bear, the man the Gestapo so fervently hunted, was running his Underground operation right under their noses. Or, more precisely, he thought, right under their feet. Below them, the tunnels buzzed with activity all hours of the day and many hours of the night.
At least, that was usually the case. But there had been an unusual lull in assignments recently, and while Hogan had enjoyed the reprieve, as well as the chance to actually get a full night’s sleep, after two days he was restless. He could sense a similar agitation in his men. They were distracted by their activities right now, but as soon as the recreation period was over, the boredom would settle down on them again.
his right, someone cleared his throat, startling Hogan out of his distracted
musings. He looked questioningly at
Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe, his radio operator, hoping it was a job from
“Great, Kinch. I’ll be right there.” As Kinch walked inside, Hogan’s eyes searched the crowd surrounding the volleyball players. He found who he was looking for, a young man enthusiastically cheering on his friends. “Carter!”
Carter looked for the voice calling him over the crowd and trotted to the barracks when he realized it was Hogan. “Yes, Colonel?”
“I have to go underground. If Sergeant Schultz comes looking for me, stall him until I get back.”
“Yes, sir,” Carter answered eagerly. “You can count on me. I won’t let you down.”
Hogan hid his amusement at the Sergeant’s youthful enthusiasm. “Thanks, Carter. I know.”
Hogan set down the headset and started pacing. Kinch’s eyes followed him for a bit, until the beginnings of a headache finally forced him to stop. “What did they say, Colonel?”
To Kinch’s immense relief, Hogan came to a halt. “I want to talk to everyone about it at once. Go get the guys, will ya?”
Newkirk rolled his eyes. “They always send us the hard stuff. I think they forget we’re prisoners of war.”
“Yeah, well, this time they have asked for a lot,” Hogan replied. “They want a map of the area around camp.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad, mon Colonel,” Le Beau said. “We have done things like this before.”
“You’re right, we have,” Hogan answered. “But this time they want a very detailed map—elevations, underground facilities, exact distances, the works. And it’s an extremely large area.”
“We haven’t had to do a map so detailed before,” Kinch agreed. “How are we going to pull it off?”
“We aren’t.” Hogan grinned slyly.
Newkirk was quite sure he didn’t like that smile. It usually meant trouble. “So, gov’nor,” he began hesitantly, “who is?”
Hogan’s smile broadened. “Sergeant Crocker.”
“NO!” Le Beau exclaimed, his face mirroring the horrified expressions of Newkirk, Kinch, and Carter. “There must be someone else who can do it. Anyone else. Please, Colonel.”
“Sorry, Le Beau, but he’s the best cartographer we have. We need him for this job.”
“Blimey, gov’nor,” Newkirk complained. He had known it would be bad news. “It’d be easier to do it ourselves than to work with ‘im.” He looked to his friends for encouragement. “Right mates?”
“Wrong!” Hogan answered emphatically before anyone else could get a word in. “This has to be done right. This map must be exact. We need Sergeant Crocker. What’s the big deal, anyway?”
Kinch was certain the Colonel knew exactly what the ‘big deal’ was, but he decided to play along. “Well, Colonel, he is just a bit hard to understand at times. It gets frustrating.”
“Why?” Hogan asked innocently. “He’s American, just like you.”
“He’s Texan,” Le Beau said, letting his disdain show in his voice. “That hardly counts.” He started to mumble in French, then finished in English. “Well, at least I don’t have to cook for him. I hate barbecue!”
“Now, there’s nothing wrong with barbecue,” Kinch said, smiling. “I just like to be able to understand people when they’re supposedly speaking the same language as I am.”
“You know, he does talk kinda funny,” Carter joined in, a puzzled look on his face. “The last time I saw him, he told me I had a ten-gallon mouth.”
“Colonel ‘ogan, sir, I’ve changed me mind.” Newkirk tried unsuccessfully to keep a straight face. “I think I do like this chap after all.”
“I wonder what he meant…” Carter wondered out loud.
“All right, guys,” Hogan said. “Carter, go think it over for a while. I’m sure you’ll figure it out. Le Beau, go and ask Sergeant Crocker to come and see me.”
After his men left his quarters, Hogan crossed his arms and leaned against the bedpost, chuckling to himself. His men’s reaction to his decision amused him. Actually, overreaction is more like it. Crocker couldn’t possibly be that bad.
eyed Newkirk and Le Beau suspiciously.
He wasn’t at all sure he liked the expressions on their faces. In fact, when Le Beau had come to get him, he
hadn’t been very friendly at all, but had mumbled something about Hogan, and
that Crocker should follow him to Barracks Two.
Now he was here, but Hogan wasn’t.
Turns out the Colonel was on the radio with
The bottom of one of the bunk beds lifted with a bang, nearly causing Crocker to jump out of his skin. Man, I’m jumpier’n spit on a hot skillet! Wouldn’t be so bad if someone’d just talk to me. He saw Hogan and Kinch emerge from the tunnel. Hogan walked up to him and reached out a hand.
Crocker gratefully accepted the proffered hand . It was nice to have someone make an effort to welcome him. People certainly weren’t this unfriendly in Barracks Six. “Howdy, Colonel. Good to see ya.”
“Glad you’re here,” Hogan said, smiling and darting a quick glance at over at Newkirk and Le Beau. They didn’t look nearly as glad.
“Gee, that’s mighty good to know,” Crocker said, relieved. He frowned at Le Beau and Newkirk. “I was feelin’ ‘bout as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.”
Le Beau shot Hogan an exasperated look, as if to say ‘see what I mean?’ Hogan pointedly ignored it and put a hand on Crocker’s shoulder. “You’re welcome here any time, Sergeant. Actually, I need your help, which is why I sent for you. Come into my office, and I’ll explain.”
“Hold still!” Kinch hissed, trying in vain to keep his friend still. “Quit squirming. How am I going to get this shoe polish on you?”
Crocker looked on silently. Finally, his conscience would not let him sit by any longer, and he whispered to Kinch. “Mind if I give you a hand, partner?”
Kinch by this time was about to give up in frustration anyway. “Sure, go ahead. He won’t sit still long enough for me to get this evened out.”
Carter’s eyes got wide as Crocker lunged at him, knocking him to the ground. Straddling him, Crocker kept him planted down with a hand on the chest. “Settle down, boy! You’re actin’ like a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers. Ain’t nobody here gonna hurt you!” He winked at Kinch. “Y’all shouldn’t let him drink coffee so close to his bedtime.”
“I didn’t have coffee,” Carter said in his own defense. “I’m just excited, that’s all. Colonel Hogan said this mission is important, and we haven’t been out in a while. I mean, it’s not always nice to go out, cause sometimes it’s dangerous, but I was getting kinda bored, just sitting here, so it’s nice this time, if you know what I mean.”
Carter could have gone on and on, had Crocker not removed the hand from his chest and put it over his mouth instead. Carter seemed like a nice enough fella, but Crocker just couldn’t take any more yapping about nothing at all. “Kid, you got enough tongue for ten rows of teeth.”
Carter grew quiet as he pondered the expression. Beside him, Kinch was laughing quietly. “What, are you some kind of magician? No one can ever get him to do that.”
“Quit talking.” Carter scowled at Kinch, not impressed by the joke at his expense. Kinch scowled good-naturedly in return.
He finished with Carter and turned to Crocker. “Okay, Crocker. Your turn.”
“Do I get to sit on him?” Carter asked hopefully. “I mean, it’s only fair.”
“You do it,” Crocker threatened, pointing a finger at him. “I’m gonner whallop ya.”
Somehow, Carter and Kinch both believed him. Crocker grabbed the can of polish and started applying it to his face. Finally, when he had used a liberal amount, he turned to Kinch. “All right, let me do you.”
“I’ll do it myself, if you don’t mind,” Kinch answered. “No offense, or course,” he was quick to add when he saw the Texan scowl.
Crocker’s frown immediately changed into a lopsided grin. “No problemo. Whatever twists yer britches.”*
“Um, thanks…I think,” Kinch replied with a matching grin. He finished and put the lid back on the can.
Crocker jumped up and clapped his hands together. “All right, fellas, time to swap spit and hit the road!**” He turned away and started walking down the tunnel. After a few feet, he turned back and saw Kinch and Carter still standing there, looking more than a little confused. “Y’all don’t just be standin’ there now. Come on!”
Kinch looked at Carter and raised an eyebrow, the two saying volumes without uttering a word. This was going to be an interesting experience.
* Whatever makes you happy.
**A reference to an old-fashioned practice of sealing a deal or promise in which two men spat in their hands before shaking hands with each other.
I’m gonna throttle them. Hogan looked at the tunnel entrance, then looked at his watch. The guys should have been back by now.
The bunk bed that concealed the tunnel entrance rose, revealing three very out-of-breath men. Their faces were flushed, a result of frantically racing down the tunnel and scrubbing shoe polish off of their faces. “What took you so long? Did you get everything you needed for the map?”
Carter was the last one out of the tunnel. He banged on the bed frame, closing the entrance, while Kinch answered. “No, sir.” He stopped to catch his breath, then continued. “Not even close.”
Sergeant Crocker took a handkerchief out of his pocket and mopped his brow. “Weren’t nothin’ we could do ‘bout it neither. Just too much to cover.”
“He’s right,” Carter agreed. “Even without patrols, we couldn’t have done it.”
“It’s that bad, huh?” Hogan asked. The bell for roll call sounded. “We’ll talk about it when we get back. We can figure out a way.”
Hogan leaned up against the table in his quarters.
“Crocker, how long would it take to get what you need for that map?”
“Well, boss,” he replied, “I don’t rightly know. It’s a fur piece.* Reckon it’d take all night just to get as far as we already been. We’d need a heap more time.”
“What if you could start at the point you left off? How much time would you need then?”
“I reckon about twenty-four hours, maybe a bit more.”
Hogan frowned, skeptical. “Sounds like there’s a lot to cover. Are you sure you can do it in that amount of time?”
“Colonel, this ain’t exactly my first rodeo.”**
Hogan laughed. “All right. If you say you can do it, I believe you. Is there anything else you need?”
“Well, I’d get it done faster if I could have Carter there come along with me.”
“Carter? Are you sure about that?”
“Okay. I think we can manage it.”
Crocker looked at Hogan appraisingly. “How come you don’t make fun of the way I tawk?”
Hogan smiled. “I had a cousin from Texas. I didn’t get to see him much when I was a kid, but when I did, we got along really well. I guess I just got used to it a long time ago.”
“Well, if that don’t beat a hen a-peckin’,” Crocker said, pleased. A question raised itself in his mind. “How would I start at the point I left off?”
“Easy,” Hogan said with a big smile. “We’ll just have Klink give you a ride.”
Crocker thought he’d have to pick his chin off the floor. “Um, Colonel Hogan, no disrespect, but if I didn’t know better I’d say you was missin’ a few buttons.”***
“Just hear me out,” Hogan said. “How well do you know Klink?”
“Well, we’ve howdied, but we ain’t shook yet.”
“Good. Does he know you by sight?”
Hogan got up and started pacing, rubbing his hands against each other as his mind worked to create a scheme. Crocker watched him silently.
Hogan stopped and looked at Crocker as an idea struck. “Crocker. Is that a Texan name?”
“Naw…just a name.”
“Hmm…I wonder why it made me think of Texas.”
Crocker stood up. Now they were talking about his favorite subject. He could talk about Texas all day, given a chance. “Well, I reckon cause it sounds an awful lot like Crockett, as in Davy Crockett.”
“Was he a Texan?” Hogan asked.
“Well, he was from Tennessee,” Crocker answered, his expression growing somber. He removed his hat, and, with tears in his eyes, placed it over his heart. “But he became Texan when he fought at the Alamo.” Head bowed, Crocker stood motionless.
Hogan didn’t know what to say, or even what to think. So he stood awkwardly for an impromptu moment of silence that seemed to last forever. Finally, Crocker raised his head, and Hogan was relieved to break the uncomfortable silence and ask his next question.
“Give me an overview of Texas history, will you?” Hogan thought better of the question the second the words left his mouth. “On second thought, just give me a brief history.”
* It’s a great distance.
** I’ve been around for a while
*** You’re crazy.
Le Beau crouched behind the water barrel, ready to carry out his part of the grand deception Hogan had planned for Klink. He really loved these things—making a fool of the Germans. It proves how stupid they are…especially Klink. I bet if dumb was dirt he could cover an acre.
LeBeau’s eyes grew wide as he realized what he had just done. Oh no! he thought, angry at himself for being so impressionable. That crazy Texan is influencing me already.
He saw the ‘crazy Texan’ in question round the corner of the barracks and head toward Klink’s office, where the Kommandant was talking to Schultz, the Sergeant of the Guard. LeBeau stepped out and deliberately ran into Crocker.
Crocker lit into the little Frenchman. He didn’t seem to care that the more he yelled, the more attention he got, especially from Klink and Schultz. The two Germans headed over to the prisoners, ready to stop what looked to be a fight.
“What are you, stupid?” Crocker yelled, absolutely outraged that someone would be careless enough to run into him. “Really, if brains was dynamite, I don’t think you’d have enough to blow your nose. How hard is it to watch where you’re going, instead of being so dadgum clumsy?”
By this time, Klink and Schultz had arrived, and were watching open-mouthed. Klink was ready to step in, but refrained when he saw Hogan approaching. Good…let Hogan take care of his own men.
LeBeau backed up, stumbling over himself, and trying desperately to placate the angry Texan. “I-I’m sorry. It will never happen again. I will be more careful, really, I promise.”
“You’d better,” Crocker whispered, eyes narrowed. He stuck a finger at LeBeau’s chest. “Or I’m gonna be all over you like stink on a monkey. You got that?”
LeBeau nodded his head so hard, Klink was sure it would it would fall off. He watched, as Hogan reached out a hand and placed it on Crocker’s shoulder. LeBeau used the distraction to sneak away unnoticed.
Sergeant Crocker shrugged Hogan’s hand off defiantly. Hogan ignored the rebellious gesture. “I’m sorry about that, Sergeant,” Hogan apologized. “I will talk to LeBeau, and I will make sure that nothing like that happens ever again.”
Klink couldn’t take it anymore. “Colonel Hogan! Surely you do not condone this kind of behavior from your men!”
“Well, Kommandant, surely you must admit that in this situation Sergeant Crocker had every right to…”
“I don’t see why you would defend the man,” Klink said, pointing to the fuming Sergeant. “He was definitely wrong.”
Hogan walked over to Klink, and, putting an arm around the Kommandant’s shoulder, walked him away from Crocker and Schultz and out of earshot. He whispered conspiratorially, “I know he’s being a jerk, but given who he is, it doesn’t seem wise to antagonize him.”
Klink stopped walking and pulled away from Hogan. “Who he is?” he asked incredulously. “What do you mean? He’s a Sergeant. You’re a Colonel.”
Hogan’s eyes grew wide. “You mean, you don’t know?”
Klink was thoroughly bewildered. “Know what?”
“Oh boy,” Hogan sighed. “We’d better go into your office. I have a lot of explaining to do.”
“It had better be some good explaining,” Klink warned. It had been a bad day already, and he was not in the mood for any of what Schultz would call “monkey business”.
“Well,” Hogan began dramatically as they walked. “First you have to know history. You knew that Texas was an independent nation between 1836 and 1845, right?”
“No,” Klink said. “And I find that very hard to believe.”
Hogan held the door open for Klink. As they walked into the Kommandant’s inner office, Hogan turned and shot a quick wink to Fraulein Hilda, Klink’s pretty secretary, then closed the door behind him.
“Well, it was,” Hogan insisted as he pulled a chair from the wall and put it in front of Klink’s desk. “They won their Independence from Mexico in 1836, and remained a sovereign nation until 1845, when they agreed to become part of the United States.” He plopped down in the chair and made himself comfortable.
Klink gave him an extremely annoyed look from across the desk as he massaged his temples, trying to fight off the headache he could feel coming on. He just wasn’t in the mood for this today.
“I still don’t see what that has to do with his behavior in the compound today, or with why you think it should be excused.”
“Well, there’s more to the story,” Hogan continued, propping his feet up on Klink’s desk. Klink immediately reached across and pushed them off. “Oh, sorry.” Hogan sat up straight, ready to lay out the bait. “Anyway, like I was saying, when Texas was a country, they established a monarchy. Kommandant, have you ever heard of Davy Crocker?”
“Yes,” Klink answered, a bit more interested. “The name sounds familiar. Why?”
“It should sound familiar. He was the King of Texas.”
Klink nodded his head, his headache suddenly gone as he pondered this new information. “Yes, that makes sense.”
Klink was hooked, and Hogan was ready to reel the line in. “And Sergeant Crocker…”
Klink gasped audibly. “No!”
“Yes!” Hogan stood up and leaned across Klink’s desk. “Heir to the Texas throne.”
“Wow,” Klink said, truly amazed. He didn’t often find himself in the presence of royalty.
“And because of the once-a-nation status that Texas has, as well as its size and its supply of resources,” Hogan continued, “It is a very powerful state, and the Crocker family still has a great deal of influence in the U.S. I mean, everyone has heard of them. They’re a household name.”
“Amazing, Colonel Hogan. I had no idea. I can see now why you were being careful. After the war, there could be retaliation.”
“That’s right,” Hogan agreed. “But if I stay on his good side, then there might be some kind of reward.”
A light gleamed in Klink’s eyes. “This is very interesting, Colonel Hogan.” Klink shuffled the papers on his desk in an attempt to look busy. “I have always said that I need to know all there is to know about my prisoners. I’d like to have a talk with Sergeant Crocker.”
“I’m sure he’d be delighted, Kommandant,” Hogan said as he put the chair back in its place.
“Very well, Hogan. Please tell him that I would like to speak with him. Diiiismissed!”
“Yes, Kommandant.” Hogan threw a sloppy salute and left the office. He grinned as he snuck one final look at the Kommandant before he shut the door.
Hook, line, and sinker.
“So everything went according to plan?” Hogan and Crocker walked easily across the compound, free to talk since no one was there to listen.
“Yep. He’s gonna take me on the grand tour in that car of his tomorrow morning. Course, I threw a hissy fit, said I wouldn’t go less’n you was to come with me.”
“Sounds like a mighty fine idea,” Hogan answered, unable to resist teasing Crocker just a little.
Crocker laughed softly to himself. He was starting to like this Hogan fella.
“Weren’t none too happy ‘bout it neither, but he gave in easy enough. I don’t think Klink’s got much of a backbone in him. I got me a feelin’ that if he was melted down, you couldn’t pour him into a fight.”
Hogan threw his head back and laughed. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard it put quite that way before. You summed it up perfectly. I take it the mighty ‘Prince of Texas’ isn’t too impressed with our powerful Kommandant.”
“Can’t say that I am. He’s an odd sorta fella. Seems to me like the engine’s runnin’, but ain’t nobody drivin’.”
“If by engine you mean mouth, then I’d say you’re exactly right.”
“Boy howdy, this sure is some purty countryside.”
Klink was strangely pleased that the Texas prince or heir or whatever he was liked Germany. At least he seemed to be friendly, Klink thought. It was a pleasant change from the personality he had seen manifested yesterday.
“Yep, right purty, that’s for sure. Makes a man wanna just breathe in the fresh air.”
Schultz kept driving. Klink kept listening. Hogan was the only one who caught the hint.
“Kommandant, I think that Sgt. Crocker might enjoy a chance to stop and get a breath of fresh air.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Hogan,” Klink started. A hard whack on the back of his seat stopped him short.
“Of course I want to stop. That’s what I SAID,” Crocker proclaimed arrogantly. He figured he could take to being royalty. He’d have to be careful not to get too high and mighty…not if he wanted to have any friends when this was over. A man could get spoiled.
“Schultz, you dumkopf! Stop the car!” Klink yelled at his guard, conveniently forgetting that mere moments ago, he had also missed the subtle clue.
“Yes, Herr Kommandant,” Schultz said wearily. He was used to the abuse by now.
Crocker got out of the car, and with a big yawn, stretched his arms and legs. He winked at Hogan.
“Kommandant,” Hogan whispered. Klink didn’t respond, so Hogan tapped him on the shoulder. “Kommandant!”
“What is it, Hogan?”
“Sir, if I might suggest an idea…” He started to lean in towards the Kommandant, and then snapped his fingers and pulled away. “No, of course you would have already thought of that,” he said, a self-reproaching look on his face. “You deserve credit for the idea.”
Klink looked slyly at Hogan. “What idea, Hogan? Perhaps it is different from the idea I have?”
“No,” Hogan said, sighing. “I’m sure you thought of it. I mean, it makes perfect sense that you would want to take Sgt. Crocker for a walk while we’re here and show him what makes Germany such a beautiful country.”
Klink loved the idea and was quite willing to accept it as his own. “Actually, Hogan, that is exactly what I was thinking.” By now, he almost believed the idea was his own.
Boy, it sure doesn’t take much. “I figured.” The disappointment was evident on Hogan’s face. “I’ll never be as clever as you.” Klink’s chest puffed out at the praise. “Why don’t you go and ask him, Kommandant?”
“Colonel Hogan, I don’t need your permission to do anything.” He turned, missing Hogan’s rolled eyes. His own eyes searched for Crocker, but could not find him.
Schultz got out of the car quickly. He hadn’t felt like getting out to breathe the fresh air. He got plenty of air every day when he walked his post. Now he wished he had gotten out of the car when the others had. When the Kommandant yelled like that, it usually meant he was about to be blamed for something he didn’t do.
“Schultz, you were supposed to be guarding the prisoner!”
“No buts! You will stay out here until you find him!”
“B-b-but Kommandant,” Schultz stammered, his eyes widening in fear. “How will I get back?”
“That is not my concern. YOU should have thought of that before you let him escape.”
Hogan jumped in. “Do you want me to stay out here and help Schultz search?”
“No, you have caused quite enough trouble already, Hogan.”
“ME?” Hogan asked indignantly. “I’m not the one who thought it would be a good idea to take Mr. Unpredictable out for a relaxing afternoon drive.”
“In the car!” Klink barked. Hogan shrugged his shoulders and silently obeyed. During the argument, he had seen Carter slip out of the trunk of the car and into the woods where he would meet up with Crocker. There was no point in stalling anymore.
“Kommandant!” Schultz whined in a last-ditch attempt to change Klink’s mind.
“Silence, Schultz!” Klink bellowed. He didn’t even want to think of an escaped prisoner, especially not one as important as Crocker. “I will send reinforcements when I get back to camp. Now go out there and find him!”
Schultz knew when it was pointless to argue. He slowly turned around and trudged off into the woods.
“As for you,” Klink said, turning to Hogan. “I will deal with you when we get back to camp.”
Hogan knew that Klink needed someone to yell at after he had ‘lost’ a prisoner. But Hogan didn’t feel any pity for Klink, and he intended to give as good as he got. If Klink was this upset now, Hogan couldn’t wait to see how he would react when they got back to camp and the Kommandant found out that Carter had escaped while he was gone.
“Consarnit!” Crocker cursed, fiddling with his compass. “It’s gone catty whompus on me.”
“What’s that mean?” Carter asked.
“It’s all whomperjawed.”
Carter still didn’t know exactly what that meant either, but from the way Crocker was getting so mad, he figured it wasn’t working like it should. Finally, he heard Crocker exclaim, “Woo-hoo! I’m cookin’ on the front burner today!”
Carter smiled. The “woo-hoo” needed no translation. He was glad for that at least. He had a feeling that he was going to have a hard time figuring out what to say today.
“Colonel Hogan says you wanted me to come along,” Carter started hesitantly.
“Cause I like you.”
Carter was used to talking a whole bunch, but he didn’t think he would be able to talk to Crocker very well. It turned out he didn’t need to worry. Crocker could talk enough for the both of them.
“Boy, it’s windier than a fifty pound bag of whistling lips. Wind’s blowing through here like perfume through a prom.” He looked at Carter and saw that he had no comment, so he kept talking. “Hot day today, too. Hotter’n a stolen tamale out here, that’s the truth.”
Carter was proud of himself for being able to follow the conversation so far. In fact, it was kind of fun to figure out what Crocker was saying. “Yeah, it is hot. It’s kind of nice. It’s usually cold.”
“Sho nuff. Colder’n a well digger’s knee, least that’s what I thought when I first got here.”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought when I first got here, too,” Carter agreed.
“Really?” Crocker ignored his instruments and looked at Carter. “You thought that it was colder than a well digger’s knee?”
“No, not exactly. More like ‘boy, it sure is cold!’”
Crocker gave him a hearty slap on the back. “That works too, buckaroo!”
Neither man said anything for a few moments, but worked together in companionable silence. Carter assisted Crocker by writing down measurements and descriptions as the Texan called them out.
Eventually, they picked up their equipment and moved on to a new spot. There was no need to worry about Schultz anymore. He had rustled around for the first few minutes, and then had fallen strangely silent. Carter figured he was waiting until help came. That made the most sense to him. He wouldn’t want to be out here in these woods all alone either.
Thinking about Schultz reminded Carter of the trouble they would be in when they got back to camp. “Boy, Colonel Klink sure is going to be mad when we get back.”
“Naw, son, don’t you worry about him none. That man’s big hat, no cattle.”
“What does that mean?”
“Means he’s all talk, but he ain’t gonna do nothin’. He’s yellow as mustard, but without the bite.”
Carter laughed. “I like the way you talk.”
“Do you now? I can teach you how.”
“Oh, I don’t think I’d be very good at talking like you.” Carter said, feeling like he could open up to his new friend. “I’m not good at much.”
“Now, I hear tell you’ve got you some purty special talents.” He looked over at Carter and winked. “’Sides bein’ a good listener.”
“Well,” Carter answered, feeling shy but not sure why. “I’m pretty good at explosives.”
“From what I hear, you’re more’n purty good. You’re downright terrific.”
“Well, maybe. I guess I just don’t like to brag.”
Crocker looked at him seriously. “If you can do it, it ain’t braggin’.”
“I guess you’re right.” Carter smiled. He wasn’t used to all the encouragement, and he kind of liked it.
“Course I’m right!” Crocker flashed Carter a toothy grin. “Now we’ve got to get you talkin’ like a Texan. You know any expressions already?”
“Well, I did hear one a long time ago. I always wondered what it meant.”
“Well, I think it was ‘Don’t squat with your spurs on.’ What does that one mean?”
“Why, that don’t mean anything but what it says. That one’s just plain common sense!”
Crocker playfully slapped Carter’s arm. “Come on. We best get goin’.”
“I don’t want excuses, I want you to find them! Now!”
Klink slammed the phone down, then whirled around when he heard his name being called. “WHAT?”
“Geez, Kommandant. You don’t have to yell.”
“Hogan,” Klink said, brushing his hand over his head. He looked at his hand, then dropped it futilely. When he was younger, he always ran his fingers through his hair when he was worried about something. Now it was a pointless gesture. Hair or no hair, though, the last thing Klink wanted or needed was something else to worry about. And when Hogan showed up unexpectedly, he always worried.
“You’re upset, Kommandant,” Hogan said, not trying to hide the teasing tone in his voice. “Something wrong?”
“Yes, and you’re not helping!”
“Well!” Hogan huffed, tossing his head back and crossing his arms. “I can tell when I’m not wanted!” He turned smartly and headed for the door.
“Hogan…wait,” Klink said, resigned to the fact that he was about to get himself into more trouble. It was inevitable. “What did you need?”
“I just wanted to know how the search was going. I figured you would have caught Crocker by now.”
“Hogan, I’ll have you know…wait. What make’s you so sure I’ll catch him?” Klink realized the grave mistake he had just made, and was quick to remedy it. “Of course, it is obvious that I will. I don’t have the sterling reputation of being the toughest Kommandant in all of Germany because I don’t know how to catch a prisoner. Don’t think that I don’t.” Klink stopped, confused at what he had just said. He could tell from the look on Hogan’s face that the other Colonel was, too. He waved his hand dismissively. “Never mind that. What makes you so sure that I will catch him?”
he’s royalty,” Hogan explained, his voice making it clear that he thought it
should have been the obvious answer. “I
mean, you’ve seen how he is. He’s
spoiled rotten. The big baby probably
wouldn’t last a day out there without someone else taking care of him. Why, I bet right now that he’s just sitting
there by the side of the road, waiting for someone to come and capture him so
he can go back to his nice, safe POW camp.”
Klink laughed out loud. “Hogan, that is the most ridiculous think I have ever heard. I won’t have you wasting my precious time. Now get out of here and leave me alone!”
“Well, how do you like that?” Hogan complained. “A guy tries to help…”
“I would be better off without your kind of help, Hogan. Dismissed!”
Hogan saluted half-heartedly and walked out the door, slamming it behind him as his final gesture of defiance.
Klink counted to ten, and then picked up the phone. “Fraulein Hilda, send for my staff car.”
Three hours later, Hogan was back in Klink’s office.
“Thirty days in the cooler? Come on, Kommandant, aren’t you being pretty harsh?”
“That is the standard sentence for anyone who tries to escape,” Klink said, the tone of his voice indicating that it wasn’t up for discussion.
Hogan had never let that stop him before, and he didn’t plan to start now. “But this isn’t your standard escape. I mean, Crocker caught Carter for you. He saved you a lot of work!”
Klink was used to Hogan trying to reduce his men’s sentence. He usually accomplished it, too, but he was out of luck this time. “He wouldn’t have been able to catch Carter if he hadn’t tried to escape in the first place. The sentence stands.”
Hogan put both hands on the desk and leaned over it until his face was inches from Klink’s. “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
“It’s a great idea,” Klink said. “It’s perfect. Why wouldn’t it be?”
“Well,” Hogan said, stepping back from the desk. He folded his arms and started walking back and forth. “The way I figure it, Crocker might be a handful now, but it will be well worth it after the war. No matter which side wins, both of us could benefit by being on his good side.”
“So you’re not trying to get his sentence reduced because he’s one of your men, is that what you’re telling me?”
Hogan shrugged sheepishly. “A man has to look out for himself. Crocker is one important guy. After this war is over, I don’t want to go back and sit behind a desk all day—especially up in Connecticut where it’s cold all the time. I’m thinking, with all of Crocker’s connections, if I take care of him now he can take care of me later.”
“Hogan, that is the most selfish, self-serving thing I have ever heard.”
“Yeah, doesn’t it sound great?” Hogan’s face broke into a big smile. “I mean, after being stuck here, think about having a cushy job, good pay, eating enchiladas on the Riverwalk, maybe have a few margaritas, get to know the feisty cowgirls, the pretty senoritas…” Hogan’s eyes took on a dreamy look as his voice trailed off. He caught himself, and, shaking his head slightly, brought himself back to the present. “I’m just saying that it doesn’t sound like it would hurt too much to help him out a bit.”
“I see your point,” Klink said thoughtfully. “After all, as you said, a man has to look out for himself.” He made a decision. “Very well, Hogan, I will let him off—this time. But if he tries something like this again, he will get every day he deserves.”
“Deal,” Hogan said cheerfully. “Now, about Carter.”
Klink sighed. Here we go again.
Carter sulked in his cell. It just wasn’t fair—it really wasn’t. And to think he had a whole month in here. He hated going to the cooler. Of course, that’s why Klink set him there. Nobody liked being in the cooler, unless they were just weird, or something was wrong with them, or if they were afraid of large spaces and liked to be in little rooms. But Carter didn’t really know about that last one. He had never met anyone who was afraid of big spaces. But it could happen. If you were afraid of big spaces, you might try to get in trouble all the time, but then you’d be in bigger trouble if someone found out you were trying to get in trouble and they never let you go to the cooler.
Carter’s profound and important thoughts were interrupted when he heard the sound of footsteps coming towards his cell. He liked it when people visited, even when it was just Colonel Hogan coming to tell him again that he was sorry and that he was still trying to get him out.
Carter was surprised to see Crocker standing there, holding a steaming plate of food. Usually LeBeau brought the food.
“Hi, Crocker,” Carter said, trying very hard not to feel jealous that Crocker was on the other side of the door just because he was a fake prince.
“Howdy, partner. I was fixin’ to eat me some supper and I figured I’d bring ya some. I feel heaps sorry about you bein’ stuck in here. Hardly seems fair, just cause I’m some kind of made-up prince.”
Carter laughed. It was kind of funny, if he really thought about it. “That’s okay. It was for a mission, after all. Is everything done?”
“Sho ‘nuff. Sent the map out yesterday, along with that other thing you thought of. It was a good idea. Wish’d I’d thought of it.”
“Thanks. That’s really nice.” He caught a whiff of what was soon to be his dinner. “What did you bring?”
“Wow, I haven’t ever had tamales.” Carter wasn’t sure what they were, but they sure smelled good.
Carter watched carefully as Crocker ate one, and then tried one himself. It was good. It tasted even better than it smelled. “Uh-oh,” Carter worried. “Sergeant Schultz is going to be in here wanting some, too. He always does when LeBeau brings dinner.”
“I don’t think you need to be a-worryin’ bout him. He’s tryin’ to stand real still. He’s too busy nursin’ that sunburn of his to be wantin’ to move about much. Reckon he’ll be stayin’ still for quite some time.”
“Oh.” Carter wasn’t glad that Schultz had a sunburn. Schultz was actually kind of nice sometimes. But he was glad he wouldn’t have to share. These tamales were good, even if they were really hot.
Maybe they were stolen.
“Mail call!” Schultz backed against the wall as all the men in Barracks Two swarmed around him.
Carter was the first to be given a letter. He fought his way back out of the crowd and sat on his bunk. This was turning out to be a good week. First, Crocker had brought him tamales. Those were good, and he didn’t even have to share with Schultz. Then yesterday, Hogan had worked his magic and gotten him released early. And today, he was getting mail. Not a bad week at all.
As he opened the letter, he looked over to the table, where Crocker was playing cards with Newkirk. Crocker was sure that Newkirk was cheating, and he had said that he figured there were a lot of nooses in Newkirk’s family tree. Newkirk thought that was funny, and said Crocker was probably right. It really didn’t matter, though, because Crocker was cheating more than Newkirk was.
“Did you get a letter, Crocker?” Carter asked.
“Nope, reckon not,” Crocker answered smoothly, simultaneously watching his cards and keeping a close eye on Newkirk, who was keeping a close eye on him.
“Yes, you did.” Schultz walked over and handed the Texan a letter. “I wondered why you weren’t in your barracks. I should have know you’d be here.”
Schultz nodded and left. Crocker turned the letter over, inspecting the postmark on the front. “Beautiful work, Newkirk. It looks like it really came from Texas.”
Hogan and the others walked over as Crocker opened it. “Is that the letter Kinch wrote for you?” LeBeau asked.
“Yep. Sho looks like it.” He handed it to Hogan. “Looks like, through a set of unfortunate circumstances, my family just lost their title and I’m just an ordinary fella.”
“I don’t think ordinary is the right word,” Newkirk muttered under his breath. Crocker just smiled and showed Newkirk his winning hand.
Hogan read the letter, though he had seen it before. “Great idea, Carter. I wish I had thought of it.” He waved the letter in the air and then looked at Crocker. “Come on,” he said with a huge grin. “Let’s go break the bad news to Klink.”
“Uh-oh,” Carter said. “He’s gonna be…” His face scrunched up as he thought really hard. “…madder than a wet hen.”
Crocker thumped the beaming Carter on the back. “My boy’s a-learnin’! He’s takin’ to tawkin’ Texan like a buzzard to guts.”
“Madder than a wet hen,” Hogan repeated, shaking his head and laughing. “That’s good, Carter. I hope you’re right. If we’re lucky,” he finished, a twinkle in his eye, “that is exactly what he’s going to be.”
Text and original characters copyright 2004 by Rebecca Cloud
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.