The Skins Game
Margaret Bryan, Patti Hutchins

Papa Bear Awards 20032003 Papa Bear Awards - First Place
Best Short Story

Papa Bear Awards 20032003 Papa Bear Awards - Nominated
Best Comedy


This effort continues in the tradition of our Hoganís Heroesí Holiday based fan fiction. This time weíve drawn on the Easter Holiday. We again do not make any claims on the original Hoganís Heroesí characters. All other characters are ours. But again, those characters are free for anyone to use, if you so choose. Our rating for this story would be G. Enjoy!

Special Thanks goes to Bianca for her advice and friendship. Also thanks goes to the Hoganís Heroes Smart Group Chat members who helped us with a Ďpotato schemeí to finish off this story. Thanks a lot.

The Skins Game

also affectionately known as

The Easter Potato Hunt

The potato became important in Britain during both World Wars, when Axis submarines were sinking Allied ships bringing food to Britain. The potato can feed five times as many people as the same acreage of wheat, and so the potato made sense as a food source for the hard-pressed British in both wars.

During the Second World War, Russian scientists considered potatoes vital to the war effort. Scientists at Pavlovsk experimental station protected a bag full of seed potatoes when their station came under attack. The tubers were brought to a basement in Leningrad where the scientists guarded them against frostbite and rats day and night. The scientists were defending South American potatoes they considered vital to the genetic improvement of their own potato crop. Without these potatoes, they believed Russia could be defeated. Potatoes were so important to Russia that these seeds were considered more precious than gold. In Russia today, potatoes are called the "Second Bread."

Seed Potatoes: Potatoes that are produced to be used for planting new crops of potatoes. Once cut into sets and planted, seed potatoes grow into tablestock potato varieties. Seed potatoes themselves are not intended for human consumption.

Tubers: A short thick rounded part of a stem usually found underground. The potatoes that we eat are tubers of the potato plant.

Tablestock: Potatoes that are produced for human consumption. Most potatoes sold at the grocery store are tablestock varieties. Tablestock potatoes have different characteristics - flavor, size, etc.

http://collections.ic.gc.ca/potato/history/war.asp

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, Tunnel under Barracks Two,

Saturday April 10th, 1944, 1630 Hours

Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe, second-in-command under Colonel Robert Hogan, the Senior POW Officer at Luft Stalag 13, sat at his radio listening intently. The message coming in was pure static. So much so, he wasnít even sure who was sending the message. He couldnít make out a word of it. Finally the message died altogether. "Damn. I got nothing. Again," Kinch complained.

"Whatís the problem Kinch?" asked Colonel Hogan as he came up quickly behind the radioman. "Sorry. You a little jumpy today?" Hogan asked after he saw Kinch flinch in surprise.

"No Colonel. Iím fine," replied Kinch sighing. "Iím just a little distracted. That was the third time today that I lost that signal. But it isnít my equipment. Iím sure of it. So it has to be a problem on the outside. But it must be important as they keep trying to get in touch with us," Kinch reported.

"Were they being jammed?" questioned Hogan, always suspicious.

"No sir. Definitely a problem on their end. Itís just that I donít even have a clue who was sending that message. We really werenít expecting anything today. London doesnít seem to know anything either. I just hope everything is alright," Kinch admitted nervously.

"Did you check with Heinrich Berger or Hermann Schlick? Maybe they know something we donít," offered the Colonel.

Kinch shook his head in response. Then exasperated he said, "Iíve already checked in with them. They are as much in the dark as we are sir."

Colonel Hogan patted Kinch on the shoulder. "Just keep at it, hopefully they will get their equipment working." Hogan paused thinking about the reason he had come down into the tunnel. "Hey, I came here to tell youÖ" he started to say but was interrupted by Carterís voice echoing in the tunnel.

"Colonel Hogan! Colonel Hogan! Shultz is on the way. He just left the Kommandantís office! And heís heading right this way, lickity split. Even for Shultz," Carter yelled.

"On my way Carter," Hogan answered and immediately headed for the tunnel entrance under barracks two. He barely made it up the ladder into the main barracks before Shultz barged in.

"Colonel Hogan. The Kommandant wants to see you in his office immediately," Shultz said somewhat commandingly, but only because he was out of breath and very anxious.

"What does the Iron Eagle want this afternoon Shultz?" Hogan asked methodically, not particularly impressed with Shultzís tone, but knowing that he wouldnít get a straight answer unless the German Sergeant calmed down.

Shultz took a deep breath. "Iím not sure Colonel Hogan. He made me very nervous though. He has been in an exceptionally good mood all day. And he was smiling when he ordered me to come get you," Shultz admitted puzzled. "What do you think it means Colonel Hogan?"

"I don't know Shultz," Hogan said, picking up his cap to accompany the guard to the Kommandantís office. "But I never trust him when he's happy."

"Ja. Ja. Me too. Shall we go?" Shultz replied after finally catching his breath.

"By all means. After you Schultz," Hogan replied as he followed the German Sergeant out into the compound, which was still bathed by the late afternoon sun. Wow, what a beautiful day! -- Just a touch of spring fever, huh Hogan? -- Whoa, remember where you are, will ya? -- Yeah. Yeah -- But if only Hermann Schlick was able to introduce Klink to Greta last night at the Haus BrauÖ love could be in the air. I just hope Greta was able to fulfill her mission. It certainly would explain why Klink's been in a good mood all day. Now, hopefully everything else will fall into place.

"Colonel Hogan to see you Herr Kommandant," Shultz said opening the Kommandant's door and ushering the American Colonel inside.

"Yes. Good, good. Hogan come in and have a seat," Klink said with a grin, waving his hand haphazardly in the direction of the chair in front of his desk. "Thank you Shultz. That will be all," Klink ordered still smiling.

Hogan watched as Shultz left the office, then gingerly sat down. "So Kommandant. What has you in such a good humor today? Did you dance the night away with some pretty fraulin?" Hogan asked with boyish exuberance.

If it was possible, Klink's smile grew even wider. "As a matter of fact... I did." He couldnít help but gloat a little in front of the American Colonel. For he knew, that if the situation were different, he would be no match for the American in the game of romance. So he intended to bask in the sun as long as he could.

"So tell me everything," implored Hogan, like an anxious schoolboy. "Was it Cynda at the Keiser Hauf? Or Marlena at the Reischtag?" Hogan asked with a rakish grin, continuing as always to bolster the Kommandantís ego, by pretending to live vicariously through the German Colonelís romantic conquests.

"Neither. It was Greta, the new barmaid at the Haus Brau. She just started work last evening. She couldn't keep her hands off of me," Klink replied haughtily, completely impressed with himself.

"Ah, that old Klink magic strikes again," Hogan replied trying to appear a little envious. "They do always seem to fall at your feet Kommandant. What I would give to be you sir."

"Well Hogan, once you have that magic, you just never loose it," Klink said grinning at the American.

Hogan sighed. "All I can say is, that for my sake, I hope thatís true Kommandant. It has certainly been a long while and I'm definitely out of practice. But Iím sure that I could never begin to match the Iron Colonelís reputation," Hogan said covetously. "So. Is that why you sent for me? So you can gloat over your most recent conquest?"

"Not entirely Hogan," Klink admitted. "Spending all that time in Greta's company last evening, got me to thinking. As Iím sure you know, tomorrow is Easter. I realize that it is a holiday that a good many of your men celebrate. Isn't that right?" Klink asked.

"Yes sir. Thatís true," Hogan replied cautiously. I think Greta may have pulled it off!

"Yes well," Klink replied. "I realize that many of your men have been putting in long hours working at the farms in the area. Not to mention that you have indeed kept your part of our bargain and have even more of your men working on repairs to the camp buildings and grounds."

Hogan quickly interrupted, hoping to again stroke the manís ego. "It was the least we could do sir. After all that you did for us. Getting that shipment of boots last month was a godsend. It meant so much to the men."

"Yes. Of course," Klink began again quickly, not wanting to discuss that shipment of boots or how those boots got into camp. -- Leprechauns? -- "So in appreciation of their efforts, I am giving you and your men a day of rest tomorrow. There will be no work details of any kind," Klink proclaimed.

"That is very generous of you sir. Your legendary compassion continues to astound me. I donít know what to say, except thank you," Hogan replied with a smile. Greta did it! Fantastic! Klink has proclaimed tomorrow a day of rest. I didn't even have to broach the subject! Sometimes I even astound myself. "I know the men appreciate your generosity Kommandant," Hogan said. He then waited a beat to see if the German Colonel had anything else to say. I guess not. "Is there anything else sir? I would like the men to hear the news as soon as possible."

"No. That will be all," Klink said watching as Hogan retrieved his cap from the desk and rose from the chair. "And Hogan?" he added as an afterthought as Hogan turned to leave.

"Yes sir?" Hogan questioned, turning back to face the Kommandant.

"You realize of course, that Monday morning will see a return to the strict discipline that has made Stalag 13 the toughest POW Camp in all of Germany," Klink reminded his senior prisoner.

"Yes sir, I do realize that," Hogan replied, doing his best to appear humble before the other officer. "May I go now?" he asked, offering a salute to the Kommandant.

"Yes. You're dismissed," Klink replied returning Hogan's offered salute.

Hogan left Klink's office and stood for a moment on the porch, watching as the sun dipped lower towards the horizon. He smiled and then zipped his jacket higher as he began to cross the compound. Boy everyone needed this day of rest desperately. With a lot of men assigned to the work details inside and outside of camp by day, and some of them, still working in the tunnels at night... we've never been busier. The men need a breather. We're averaging ten or more 'moving people' a night. Not to mention trying to keep up with all the espionage and sabotage. We've had three big jobs his week alone. It has been pushing everyone past their limit. A break is needed, and the holiday tomorrow is the perfect excuse.

Like I always sayÖ Any excuse for a holiday. Iím so glad I can give the guys the good news. I hadnít told anyone but Kinch that I was trying to get tomorrow as a day off, just in case it blew up in my face. The men would have been disappointed. Thank God it didnít happen that way.

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, Compound,

Easter Sunday, April 11th, 1944, 1100 Hours

Hogan along with many of his men were lounging around outside in the compound. The sun was shining and they were enjoying themselves as they watched the guards perform the camp chores that were normally accomplished by the prisoners.

"How many crates have they unloaded so far?" Hogan wondered out loud as he watched the Krauts unload the prisoner rations from the supply trucks. It was normally a job that they themselves were required to do. It usually took a good portion of the day to complete and it was exhausting work. "Lucky for us those trucks came today," Hogan said with a smirk. He had hoped they would come today. Although, he knew he had no real control over that as the route the drivers took changed based on the needs of each of the camps being supplied. And nothing was ever decided ahead of time. It was just an added break from the menís workload and he was glad.

"That's number 167," Carter replied enthusiastically.

"Colonel!" Kinch interrupted excitedly as he exited the barracks. "I finally got that message."

"Great. Is there an emergency? What are we supposed to do?" Hogan asked all business.

"We need to get a crate of potatoes off one of the supply trucks coming here. The trucks are supposed to be here in the next day or so..." Kinch's reply trailed off as he looked across the compound and noticed the supply trucks parked outside the mess hall.

"What?!" Hogan asked incredulously after following Kinchís gaze to the supply trucks. "Goddamn it. The trucks are already here. We wonít be able to get near them now because of our Ďday of restí. What's in that crate anyway?"

"Microfilm," Kinch replied. "It is supposed to be hidden in the crate of potatoes with the broken slat. They hid the film inside a hollowed out potato."

"Hey Colonel," Carter interrupted. "The crate that Fritz is carrying has got a broken slat. And itís loaded with potatoes. Did I ever tell you guys that I worked two seasons harvesting potatoes at my Uncle Henryís farm in Idaho? I learned so many amazing things about potatoesÖ"

Colonel Hoganís glare quickly stopped Carterís little lecture. Then the men watched in silence as the all-important crate was carried inside the mess hall, where they knew it would be dumped into a huge bin that held the potatoes.

"When do they need that microfilm to get out?" Hogan asked with a heavy sigh. Just my luck, try to do something nice and all I managed to do was get us into more hot water. We could have easily handled getting the damn film if I hadnít pushed so hard for this day off. It certainly would be helpful if we had one of the civilians that work in the mess hall on our side right about now. But, it has never been necessary to infiltrate the mess hall as weíve always done the unloading of the supply trucks ourselvesÖ

"As soon as possible," Kinch answered interrupting Hoganís thoughts "It contains the schematics of the new V6 rocket, including the production plantís location and weaknesses. The plant goes into full production in a couple of weeks. London needed the film because Allied High Command wanted the plant taken out before then."

Hogan whistled. "That certainly is one hot potato then. Where did the film come from? How come London told you that they didnít know anything?" asked the Colonel.

"The film came from a group called Sandpiper. I guess they had some difficulty with their own contacts. There was a breakdown in their normal route, a contact gone missing or something. But Sandpiper was able to get the film to the group called Heron. And then Heron got it to our contact at the supply depot, who was then suppose to get the film onto the trucks coming here," Kinch explained. "London never expected the film to come through us Colonel. It just seems that with all the equipment problems, communication just fell apart sir."

Hogan just stood shaking his head, his mind racing. How do we get to that damn potato? One potato, out of thousands.

"Don't tell me that we are going to have to get into the mess hall and search for the right potato," LeBeau said in disbelief, staring at his commanding officer.

Newkirk stood from where he was sitting on the bench. "Itís bloody impossible. Itís like looking for a needle in a haystack, except this haystack will have Krauts with machine guns watching it."

Carter, ever the optimist, broke into the conversation. "Hey it is Easter, why donít we just convince the Germans we want to have an Easter Egg Hunt. Only we donít use eggs. We could do an Easter Potato Hunt. What do you say Colonel? It could be fun. I remember all the Easter Egg Hunts when I was a kid. We used to have so much fun on the reservation whenÖ"

"Carter. Thatís enough!" ordered Hogan exasperated. "Just let me think." Hoganís men stood quietly watching as their commanding officerís mind worked through the problem. "Okay. What do we know? We know that the Germans prepare all the food for the prisoners. So they could very easily find that potato," Hogan said thinking out loud. "So, we just need a valid reason to be in the mess hall and be responsible for the food preparation. At least for while. We need enough time to search through the damn potato bin." It was then that the Colonelís face lit up. "Thatís it!" he said excitedly.

"Whatís it?" Newkirk asked incredulously. "You are not suggesting that we just waltz on over there an' ask to search the potato bin, are you?"

"Not quite," Hogan replied gesturing for the four of them to follow him into barracks two.

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, Kommandant Klink's Office,

Easter Sunday, April 11th, 1944, 1215 Hours

Hogan burst into the Kommandant's office. He had some fast-talking to do. "Colonel Klink," Hogan began. "We have a big problem sir!"

Klink sighed, though he didn't look up from his paperwork. "Yes what is it Hogan? Arenít your men happy that they have the time off? What could possible be wrong? They are just very lucky that Iím a man of my word, or I could have easily rescinded my order and had your men unload those supply trucks."

"Yes sir. I know that sir. Iím really sorry sir. I just can't believe that my men would do this, in light of your recent generosity," Hogan said laying it on as thick as he could get it.

"Do what Hogan?" Klink asked annoyed, but still looking at the papers spread before him on his desk.

"Escape sir," Hogan replied in an affronted tone of voice. "The escape committee came up with another plan. I tried to put a stop to it. But they insisted that this plan would work. I tried to stop them Kommandant, but they went anyway. All twenty of them. Just now after the noon roll. They canít be that far away sir."

"Escape! Twenty of my prisoners have escaped!" Klink shouted rising quickly, scattering his paperwork all over the office. "Shultz!" he bellowed.

"Jawohl Herr Kommandant," Shultz replied hurrying into the Kommandant's office.

"Call out the guards. Sound the alarm. There's been an escape!" Klink ordered. "When we catch your men Hogan, they will pay dearly for this exercise in futility."

"Sir, please. Admittedly it was a foolish plan. But, pleaseÖ I donít want anyone hurt. Let me go with Shultz. I know my men will turn themselves in peaceably if I'm there," Hogan said. "And they know how much of a tiger Shultz is and that he would hunt them down until he found every last one. Together, I know we can stop them sir," Hogan glanced quickly at Shultz who had puffed with pride for the Kommandant.

"Do you know where your men are heading, Colonel Hogan?" Klink demanded.

"Yes sir. I know they were to stay together. At least, until the got to the river," Hogan replied. "So we need to hurry sir. Before they split up."

"Okay. Shultz take Hogan with you," Klink ordered. "Find those men and bring them back here. But if they offer any resistance, you have my permission to shoot to kill if necessary."

"Jawohl Herr Kommandant," Shultz replied, escorting Hogan outside into the compound. Within moments, the alarm was sounding and the dogs had been released. Hogan left camp, under Shultzís watchful eye, to re-capture his own men. Damn. The things I have to do. If London ever finds out the whole truth, Iím going to end up in Leavenworth, for sure, when this is over.

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, On the riverbank,

Easter Sunday, April 11th, 1944, 1230 Hours

The twenty escaped POWs from Luft Stalag 13 were now gathered at the riverís edge about a mile from camp. It had been the craziest hour and a half that some had ever spent at Stalag 13. Corporal LeBeau and Sergeant Carter had torn through camp with the prisoner profiles created for Colonel Hogan upon each POWs arrival into camp. They were trying to find 18 men who had any kind of food preparation in their backgrounds and who werenít currently involved in one of Papa Bearís many schemes. Those men were all quickly drafted and told of the situation with the microfilm/potato. They all knew they were going to end up on KP helping to locate it.

"So, Colonel Hogan just wants us to stand here until the alarm sounds?" Sergeant Jeffrey Stone asked Carter who stood beside him. "And then just give ourselves up when the Krauts arrive? Well, I still think itís crazy. What if they decide to shoot first?"

"Donít worry. You all know the Colonel will come through. He always does. We're just out here to get caught," Carter replied glancing over the other nineteen men with him. "So everyone relax. Take a seat. Just remember to look surprised and scared when they capture us."

Several minutes went by before they heard the alarm. Very soon thereafter, they heard the dogs running through the woods in their direction.

"Okay. Here come the dogs," LeBeau said. "Just stand still. The dogs will only bark at you." Almost as one, the twenty prisoners stood quietly with the hands by their sides, waiting on their inevitable re-capture.

Meanwhile, on the path to the river...

Both Colonel Hogan and Sergeant Shultz could hear the dogís frantic barking from up ahead on the path. Obviously the dogs had something cornered. "Shultz," Hogan said to the guard walking beside him. "Let me talk to my men first, okay? I'm sure they'll surrender peaceably."

"Go ahead Colonel. It will be better that way," Shultz agreed readily. "I'll have the rest of the guards stay here. But I will need to accompany you," Shultz said hoping that they could end this without any of the prisoners getting hurt. He truly felt that he could trust Colonel Hogan to solve this without bloodshed.

"Thanks Shultz. I really appreciate this. I don't want any of my men to get hurt," Hogan said striding down the path confidently with Shultz at his side.

Back at the riverís edgeÖ

The twenty escaped prisoners could hear Colonel Hogan's voice, even over the sounds of the dogís barking. He was calling to them from farther down the path and was asking for them to surrender peaceably. Hogan even threatened that the tenacious Sergeant Shultz would never give up the chase, if they didnít. He wanted them to know how futile this escape attempt was.

In response, LeBeau and Carter led the men in a chorus of "Komerad! Komerad!" All twenty men were standing with their hands above their heads as Colonel Hogan and Sergeant Shultz approached. Shultz quickly took charge and 'officially' re-captured the twenty men. They were then marched back to Stalag 13.

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, Compound,

Easter Sunday, April 11th, 1944, 1300 Hours

The newly recaptured prisoners now stood in two lines of ten before the Kommandantís office. "You men should know by now that you cannot escape from Stalag 13. Not today, not ever. This act will not go unpunished. Shultz, two weeks in the cooler for the lot of them," Klink ordered.

"Excuse me Kommandant," Hogan started.

Klink never let him finish his thought, "If I hear another word out of you Colonel Hogan, you will be confined to your barracks for the same amount of time. You were responsible for your men Colonel," Klink reminded him. "Iím sure you understand the need for discipline to be maintainedÖ"

"Yes sir. I do," Hogan said somewhat deflated as he watched Shultz parade his men to the cooler. He really didnít want to get two weeks confined to barracks, but he had to press the Kommandant so everything else could go according to plan. "I completely agree Kommandant. You are absolutely correct. However I think, at this point, two weeks in the cooler is too lenient of a punishment."

"You do?" Klink asked astonished. "Why would you say such a thing?"

"Those men didnít just escape from you sir. They escaped from me! They deserve to be punished. I just feel that two weeks in the cooler will only enable them to think of new and different ways to escape," Hogan said rather angrily. Hogan then shook his head negatively. "It would serve them right if they had to work off their punishment on KP duty," Hogan said as he waved his arm wildly in the direction of the mess hall. "Especially after all the gloating they did as they watched your men unload the trucks this morning."

"You surprise me Colonel Hogan. Usually I have to argue with you about punishment duty for your men," Klink said a little skeptical. What is Hogan thinking? He certainly doesn't want his men in the cooler. That's a given. But why would he want them in the mess hall? There can't be any reason to want them in there, unless he is really and truly angry with his men...

"Youíre right Kommandant. Itís just that after all this timeÖ I finally realized that together weíve made a great team. We have managed to maintain Stalag 13's perfect no escape record and my men have been safe. And I also know how it would look on your report to Berlin if you lost 20 men at the same time," Hogan said conspiratorially, knowing that Klink thinking about that report to Berlin should tip the scale in his direction. "And I still can't believe they truly did that behind my back," Hogan said, again trying to appear angry. "I just donít want a repeat incident sir."

"Neither do I," Klink said thoughtfully. "Well Colonel Hogan, you have just given me your menís punishment. They will serve their two-week sentence by working both shifts in the prisoner mess hall. They will perform all of the duties normally performed by my staff. There will be a guard posted at all times, and your men will be confined to the cooler when not working," Klink ordered. "And because it was your suggestion, you will supervise your men in their punishment during those shifts." There. That serves Hogan right. He just talked himself and his men into two punishments.

Hogan sighed again. "Yes sir," Hogan replied. "Should I have the men begin immediately, sir?" Damn. That didn't quite work out the way I wanted it to. But at least, we will have access to the mess hall.

"Yes Colonel. You should. Shall we go inform your men," Klink stated as he gestured for the American to precede him to the cooler.

Hammelburg, Germany, Stalag 13, Prisonerís Mess Hall,

Easter Sunday, April 11th, 1944, 1430 Hours

"This is just great. Two weeks of KP and the cooler," Sergeant Stone moaned as he stood in a line of ten men while Sergeant Shultz relieved the German civilians who worked in the mess hall. The POWs had been split into two groups; each group was to work an eight-hour shift. The first would start at 5:00am, and the second would start at 1:00pm.

Shultz informed the civilians that they had all been given two-weeks paid leave and that the Kommandant would explain the situation. The ten men who worked the second shift in the mess hall were understandably worried as this was their only livelihood. But, Shultz made sure they understood that this was only temporary, that they were not being singled out, and that the men on the first shift would also be given the same paid leave. He then sent them on their way to see the Kommandant.

"All right you men," Shultz ordered the prisoner detail, waving his hand to indicate the kitchen. "Get to work." Shultz then quickly found a chair in the corner of the mess hall and made himself comfortable, completely ignoring the prisoners in his charge. He was soon fast asleep.

The POWs ignored Shultzís order and turned their attention to their commanding officer. "LeBeau," Hogan began. "Youíre in charge here, Iím just a innocent bystander. So letís get to work huh?"

"Oui," LeBeau acknowledged and then walked down the long table where the food was prepared. He, at least, had the advantage of knowing what was being prepared here. It is always the same, day in and day out. Breakfast is a thick unappetizing gruel. Lunch is a thin, watery Ďvegetableí soup, made up mostly of boiled potatoes and cabbage with some added greens. Dinner is again boiled potatoes and cabbage. Almost never do we see any meat. The only meat we receive routinely is the processed meat contained in the Red Cross packages.

LeBeau quickly organized the seven men assigned to him. Some of those men would be responsible for chopping the cabbage and the potatoes. He, himself would watch the boiling pots and he would have the rest of the men washing the stacks of tin plates, and cleaning the mess hall. In addition to finding the microfilm, they had to get the room prepared to feed almost 2,000 men in just a little less than three hours. I can't believe that I am organizing a kitchen to put out boiled potatoes and cabbage. Ack. Never before would I have thought that a kitchen of mine would put out such unappetizing fare. But all of us here have made sacrifices for the war effort, this is just more of the same.

Hogan assigned himself the job of making sure that Shultz stayed busy sleeping while he Ďguardedí the prisoners from the corner of the kitchen area. Hogan also put himself on guard duty, watching out the windows to make sure no unexpected visitors showed up. Once he was sure the coast was clear, he signaled to Carter and Corporal Tyler Billings to start searching the potato bin for the hidden microfilm. Hopefully we can find the microfilm quickly, because tomorrow morning may not be all that productive. It will depend on who is assigned the morning shift with us. The search might just have to wait until Shultz comes back on duty. And even then I may have to give Shultz something to keep him asleep. The only thing in our favor was that that crate with the broken slat was one of the last to be unloaded from the truck.

Time passed slowly for Colonel Hogan, as all he had to do was keep his vigil over Shultz and the window. Everyone else was, at least, keeping busy. The only thing breaking the monotony for him was listening in on Carter's conversation with Billings. Oh my God. I must be losing my mind... Carter's potato facts are even starting to sound interesting. Except I think poor Billings has had enough. Hogan glanced at Billings just as Billings's frustration level got the best of him.

"I swear when I get out of here I am never going to eat or even look at another potato again!" Billings vowed as he moved his 839th potato.

Carter who was still enthusiastically searching the potato bin glanced astonished at Billings. "Why? The potato is an amazing vegetable. Did you know that the potato 'peel' changes its chemical structure after it is harvested? The outer layers thicken and harden and their cells are converted to the same substance that is found in a bottle cork!"

Billings groaned. "I really didn't need to know that Carter. We eat the peels here remember!"

"Did you know that potatoes are a natural stain remover? When you get a stain on your clothing, let it dry. Then rub a fresh potato over the stain for a couple of minutes. Then wash your clothes. The potato will remove the stain! My mother used to use that on our overalls. They'd come clean first time through!" Carter continued enthusiastically.

"Great, now we're eating both a stain remover and a bottle cork!" Billings replied giving the Sergeant a dirty look. "Do you know anything cheerful about the bloomin things?"

"Why sure!" Carter replied with a broad grin. "I worked two whole summers harvesting potatoes back home. Why I bet I know every potato joke there is! Let's see. Um. Why did the potato cross the road?"

"I don't know, why?" Billings asked, astonished with himself that he was even encouraging this insanity. At least it took his mind off the monotony of moving potatoes.

"He saw a fork up ahead," Carter replied. "Um. How do you describe an angry potato?"

"I'm afraid to ask," Bilings said groaning over the previous joke.

"Boiling mad! What do you say to an angry 300-pound baked potato?" Carter continued enthusiastically.

"How should I know?" Billings said rolling his eyes.

"Anything, but just butter him up?" Carter answered with a grin and sparkling eyes. "What do you call a baby potato?"

"How many more of these do you know?" Billings demanded.

Carter answered unabated, "A small fry! Oh probably six or seven bushels more."

"Oh no, Colonel Hogan make him stop! Please," Billings pleaded to his commanding officer.

"Carter," Hogan said smiling to himself.

"Yes sir?" Carter asked looking up holding a potato in each hand.

"Shut up," Hogan ordered.

"Yes sir," Carter replied downcast. Though he had noticed that Hogan wasn't mad, nor did he even appear annoyed. Carter continued searching the bin in silence. There was absolutely no point in pushing his luckÖ with either the Colonel or Tyler Billings.

Damn. Almost two hours and still no microfilm. Hogan had spent those two hours watching Carter and Billings move as many potatoes as they could over to the men doing the chopping. They just finished with all the potatoes needed for dinner. All that was left to do in preparation for dinner was the cooking. Even that is well underway. Carter and Billings are still searching the bin by moving potatoes around but it really isnít the easiest way to accomplish the task. There just isn't anywhere to stack extra potatoes. It will look pretty obvious that something is going on.

Just then Carter yelled, "I found it!" He scared everyone, even poor Shultz who fell out of the chair he had been sleeping in. Hogan gave Carter a look of daggers as he helped Shultz up from the floor.

"Was ist los?" Shultz exclaimed, trying to get his bearings. He stood up from the floor and scanned the room for any sign of danger. Everything appeared normal. "Was ist los?" he asked again confused.

"Itís alright Shultz. Sergeant Carter lost his lucky Tom Mix Decoder Ring in the potato bin. He just got excited when he found it. Isnít that right Carter?" asked Colonel Hogan giving Carter the Ďfollow my leadí look.

"Yeah. Yeah. Want to see it Shultz?" Carter asked, and removed the ring as he approached both men. Carter then Ďaccidentallyí dropped the decoder ring on the floor in front of Shultz. As Shultz bent down to pick it up, Carter handed off the microfilm to Colonel Hogan. "Thanks Shultz," Carter continued when Shultz returned the decoder ring. "Iím sorry I scared you. This ring means a lot to me. I would have hated to loose it. My dad gave it to me."

"Ja. Ja, Carter. Itís all right. I understand," replied Shultz who then went to survey the doings in the mess hall.

Hogan watched Shultz walk away and fingered the case containing the microfilm in his pocket. He had assumed that he and the ten men on punishment detail would be searched before leaving the building. The Krauts are sure to search us. They wouldn't even dream of letting us leave here with any sharp utensils that could be used as a weapon. So, it's probably going to be a fairly thorough search. Maybe even a strip search. So itís important that we get rid of the film before being relieved. The Krauts are probably not even going to let us near the other prisoners when they are eating, wanting no chance of us passing something off to them. The only contact that we will have is as the men pass through the chow line. LeBeau is going to have to serve it up to Newkirk or Kinch with their meal. Itís the only way.

It was shortly thereafter, that the first of the prisoners in camp began through the chow line, receiving their rations. Hogan signaled both Newkirk and Kinch that they had been successful and quickly indicated LeBeau with a nod of his head. As Kinch approached LeBeau, Newkirk started some confusion in the line by dropping his tin plate so it landed heavily on the floor. It was then that LeBeau passed the microfilm off to Kinch. LeBeau served it up onto Kinchís plate, plopping a serving of cabbage on top of it. It worked like charm, none of the Germans even noticed. Then it was just a matter waiting until dinner was over. Kinch was able to exit the building without a problem.

After the last prisoners had vacated the mess hall, the ten men with Hogan still had to stay and do the cleanup. The work went by pretty smoothly. But, it wasnít until 2100 hours that Hogan and his men were relieved of duty, searched thoroughly, and sent their separate ways. Hogan stood and watched as a detail was assigned to return his men to the cooler. Then Shultz escorted him across the compound to Barracks Two. Well I guess that my plan didn't work out entirely as I had hoped. It is true that we did recover the microfilm. And the men are assigned to KP as I had planned, but I hadn't expected Klink to leave them confined to the cooler, nor did I expect to be assigned as KP supervisor for two weeks. In fact I hadn't expected any punishment for my part in all of this. I'll be damned lucky if after the two weeks are up, that those men will ever speak to me again. But they all know the risks and understand the games that we have to play here at Stalag 13. They're good men. The best. I'm just sorry that we all drew the short straw this time.

"How was KP?" Kinch asked with a grin when Hogan entered the barracks.

"Kinch, don't even start. All I want to know is if you've been in touch with London and when we can get that microfilm out of here," Hogan stated evenly.

"Um, yes sir. Newkirk is all set to deliver it tomorrow night. London's sending a courier plane," Kinch replied, somewhat surprised by Hogan's demeanor. "Is everything alright Colonel?"

Hogan sighed, "Yeah. Everything is fine. I didn't mean to bite your head off. I'm just feeling a little guilty that the guys are confined to the cooler, in addition to their KP duties. I won't even be able to get to Klink to press for their release, because I've been confined to the mess hall for the next two weeks, morning, noon and night. Nor can I even legitimately ask him, as this whole KP thing was all my idea. You know me... Always understanding and cooperative." Hogan just shook his head. Leavenworth, here I come.

"Colonel Hogan, I know the guys understand sir," Kinch replied. "We all know how important the microfilm is. Your plan was the only way that we were going to be able to retrieve it." Kinch paused and then smirked, "And look on the bright side. Andrew got his Easter Potato Hunt."

Hogan grinned at that. "Yeah, and you knowÖ it was Carter who found the damned potato."

Kinch grinned in reply. "So everything is going to work out fine. The guys will be out before you know it. The microfilm will be on its way to London tomorrow night. And Newkirk and I can mind the store while you are tied up. Don't worry."

Hogan nodded. "Thanks Kinch. I guess I needed that pep talk." Hogan then turned to head into his quarters saying, "I'm going to bed. I'm sure my escort will be here early tomorrow morning."

"Colonel," Kinch called out.

"Yeah Kinch. What is it?" Hogan replied turning back to his second in command.

"I've been meaning to ask you all day. What did you want to tell me yesterday?" asked Kinch. "When you came down to see me when I was having trouble getting that message?"

Hogan smiled and laughed remembering. "Oh, nothing really important. I wanted to tell you a story that I overheard in the compound."

"Yeah? What story?" Kinch asked intrigued, as Hogan was never one to participate in camp gossip.

"A silly story really. I just thought it was funny," Hogan replied beginning the tale. "You see...

A man was blissfully driving along in his car, when he saw the Easter Bunny

hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the Bunny,

but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of his car and was hit.

The basket of eggs went flying all over the place. Candy, too.

The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover,

pulled over to the side of the road,

and got out to see what had become of the Bunny carrying the basket.

Much to his dismay, the colorful Bunny was dead.

The driver felt guilty and began to cry.

A woman driving down the same road saw the man crying and pulled over.

She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong.

'I feel terrible,' he explained. 'I accidentally hit the Easter Bunny and killed it.

There may not be an Easter because of me. What should I do?'

The woman told the man not to worry. She knew exactly what to do.

She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can.

She walked over to the limp, dead Bunny,

and sprayed the entire contents of the can onto the little furry animal.

Miraculously the Easter Bunny came to back life, jumped up,

picked up the spilled eggs and candy, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped on down the road.

50 yards away the Easter Bunny stopped, turned around, waved and hopped on down the road,

another 50 yards, turned, waved, hopped another 50 yards and waved again!!!!

The man was astonished.

He said to the woman, 'What in heaven's name is in your spray can?

What was it that you sprayed on the Easter Bunny?'

The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label.

It said:

Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave."

(sickjokes.about.com)

Kinch stared blankly at his commanding officer for a moment. Colonel Robert Hogan was bowled over in laughter. Kinch had never seen him like this in all the time he'd known him. Kinch just shook his head, and walked away. Hogan still laughing, shrugged at his friend, then turned and entered his quarters. His demeanor changed quickly though as he closed the door to his quarters behind him. Damn it's going to be a long two weeks. I'll be so very glad when this war is over.

The End

Authorís Note: The reference, contained in our story, to Tom Mixís Decoder Ring was just for fun. We make no claims on the life and times of Tom Mix. For those of you who donít know who he was, weíve included a small bio sketch.

Mix, (Thomas) Tom 1880 -- 1940

Movie actor; born in Mix Run, Pa. He had been a champion rodeo rider, a soldier, and a cowboy in Oklahoma before he began to make short Western movies in 1909. (Studio publicists would later invent an even more glamorous past--fighting in the Spanish-American War, service with the Texas Rangers, and other such mythical feats.) He went on to star in more than 400 low-budget Westerns with his faithful horse, Tony; there was a daily 15-minute radio show about Tom Mix, enemy of all that was bad in the Old West; in the late 1930s he toured with the Tom Mix Circus. He became very rich and extremely famous, was married five times, and died in a car crash. -- Biography.com

AND

INCLUDED FOR YOUR CULINARY ENJOYMENT

Crispy Cheddar Potato Skins

Serves 6 -- Recipe Provided by Meals.com

Est. preparation time: 20 mins

Est. cooking time: 1 hr


Ingredients:

6 large baking potatoes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

1 tablespoon salt

ľ cup chopped peeled red onion

1 pound ground turkey

1 packet ORTEGA® Taco Seasoning Mix

ĺ cup water

12 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded

1 cup sour cream, optional

1 cup ORTEGA® Salsa Prima Homestyle Mild, optional

ľ cup chopped green onion, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350įF.

Pierce potatoes with fork. Lightly coat potatoes with approximately 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and salt. Place in oven and cook thoroughly until skins are crispy, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle. Cut in half lengthwise and scoop out half of potato, making sure not to break the skin on bottom. Set aside removed potato for another use.

In a large skillet with remaining oil, over medium heat, sauté onion until tender, about 3 minutes, add the turkey meat, seasoning mix and water; cook thoroughly, 6 to 8 minutes.

Place a small amount of cheese in the bottom of each potato skin. Top with turkey mixture and additional cheese. Return to oven until cheese is completely melted. Serve hot as desired with sour cream, salsa and green onion.

Happy Easter!


Text and original characters copyright 2002 by Margaret Bryan, Patti Hutchins

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.