If you have not read part 4 yet, you can check that out here

These Boots Were Made for Sloshin’

I arrived at my first RV probably in twice the amount of time I should have. I reported sheepishly to the cadre in the PU truck. Once released, I picked out a more careful departure route and slowly jogged away from the truck. The rest of the day was a blur of terrain and torment, climbing over countless fences and crossing scores of creeks under the futile pretense of keeping my feet dry. It took more energy to cross a creek trying to keep my feet dry, so screw it—I eventually just sloshed right through them and got it over with.

My boots were nothing fancy: combat-style, black leather, two pairs. I treated them with nothing but Shinola boot polish. I made sure I rotated them each day. I ate no snacks, no power bars, powders, or gels. I thrived on only air, water, and leg boots.

None of us knew when the day would be over. We didn’t know how many days we would be humping the hills until the long walk was upon us. When I finally was told to get in the back of a truck, there were quite a lot of other men already in there. I must have been one of the last ones.

WV in Winter
Absolutely beautiful if you don’t have to navigate it in wet boots.

A Ride in Near Total Darkness

The truck was zipped shut, and it was near total darkness. We knew not whether we were going to another gouge somewhere in the mountains to bed down or back to the barracks to pack for the airport. Eventually, a couple of feeble speculations were voiced, countered by other speculations. One man tried peering through a tiny hole in the corner of the cover. He quickly regained his dignity and sat back down with the rest of us.

Finally, the truck stopped, and the zipper was ripped open. Here we go, urban or rural, and the snare drum peeled. Crash! The cymbal rang, and it was rural out there. Another day completed and still in the course. Enough rejoicing. Tomorrow was still a-comin’. Build shelter, show feet some love, eat hot food, sleep, repair body.

As my days under these conditions played out, monotony descended upon me. My body was being consistently and decisively torn down. Each morning, I found myself lost for approximately three hours between my start point and my first RV. The rest of the legs of my journey went relatively uneventfully.

My walking stick—I mean rifle—was to be carried by hand, as we had no slings. Though it was merely a rubber duck (mock rifle), it was to be respected and treated like a firearm at all times. I had eventually taken to using it sparingly as a walking stick, sporting it with required respect only as I spiritedly jogged the last 100 meters to my RVs. “Color and number,” requested the Delta cadre in the military M-880 pickup truck.

As the misery grew, I used my rifle as a cane to the extent that I even wrapped a drive-on rag (multi-purpose medical cloth) around it to pad it from my hand, which was rapidly becoming blistered.

At the end of a particularly gruesome move, I was so thoroughly whipped that I blatantly dragged my toy rifle behind me in the mud, still tied to my bleeding hand by the drive-on rag. “Just give me the coordinates to my next RV, please,” I demanded. “Color and number,” requested the cadre with a granite face that was equally indifferent to my sense of humor as it was to my request.

Though my luck was holding out, I constantly contemplated getting soundly lost—so lost that I would have to engage in my recovery solution, which entailed setting up shelter, starting a fire, laying out my VF-17 panel, and calling for rescue with my emergency radio. I ventured they would find me easily enough, as I had left a “bread-crumb trail.” They need only follow the trench I had been cutting with my dick dragging in the dirt.

Day Five: More Misery

Day five. Same story. Lost first thing in the morning. Later on that day, I would, for the first time, pass by another candidate that I saw in the distance. He was coming right at me, and we would pass close enough for mutual recognition. We were both running. I had no intention of breaking the rules by stopping and talking. As we got within a couple of hundred meters, I could tell without a doubt that it was my long-time best bud on the planet, P-Mac. I altered my trot to pass even closer to him. As we got to within 50 meters, I could see that he was grinning from ear to ear. At 10 feet, I lifted my rifle-clutching hand up and beat my chest with it hard, letting out a battle cry.

We roared passed each other. I felt energized and began scything through grass and vaulting logs and rocks. I continued blazing an azimuth across the WV mountains until I heard the petite voice of Lois Lane whisper in my head, “Oh, Clark…stop showing off before you pull something.”

“Get into the back of the truck,” the cadre finally told me at my “last” RV. He threw open the back panel, and I gazed in horror into the chasm of the empty truck. Had everyone else gotten lost, too? Did I run through a star gate somewhere during one of my many less-than-conscious stupors? I climbed in, and the cadre zipped shut the back panel. Oh God, this can’t be good. I felt like Al Pacino in “Carlito’s Way,” being wheeled away on the gurney after being stitched by Vinney from the Bronx. “Sorry, boys…all the stitches in the world can’t sew me together again.”

The zipper shrieked, the back flap opened, and light flooded the truck bed. I squinted hard against the light and…rural! OK, I’m stunned, but…shelter, feet, food, sleep, repair. In the morning, when my alarm clock screeched, I rolled over in my bed and reached toward my nightstand to slap the snooze button for another five minutes of sleep. No bed, no nightstand, just my G-Shock spouting off for coffee call. That G-Shock…it can go fuck itself, but I got up and did my routine. I had to stay out in front of the system. I had to have this small coffee victory to demonstrate to myself and to my torment that I was still in charge.

I waited next to the mountain road for the truck to arrive and perhaps scare away a few crows with my appearance in the meantime. With hope, this was the first truck of the morning. As I waited, I looked skyward at the stars, hoping once again to wink at some friendly constellations, but there were none. I noticed then that a fine icy sleet was hitting me in the face, and I began to shiver. I heard a ruckus emanating from down the pitch-dark mountain road. Driven by a team of eight black stallions came a dark hearse with large yellow wagon wheels grinding and cracking in the gravel. The cadre threw open the back panel, and in I went.

Perseverance Pays Off

As I departed my start point, the sleet had turned into a full-caliber snow. During a brief pause for a map check, I cleared my brain for a moment, and I watched the woods fill up with snow and pondered the miles I had to go before I slept…the miles to go before I slept. Yeah, Robert Frost…he can go fuck himself, too. I plodded along in a now more intense snow, pinging from RV to RV, my mind’s eye fixed on a warm fire.

The snow was getting ridiculous. It was coupled with a veering wind that brought it in at an ever steeper angle, such that I thought it would be horizontal before long. I cupped my hand in front of my compass to keep the snow from covering it. The conditions were appalling, but I was warm from my labor and confident in my movement.


I finally happened upon a graveyard to my front. Was this my final RV? I looked on my map, and in fact, I did see an RV approximately 600 meters from this graveyard. I would cut through the graveyard, as going around it would be much too taxing. The tombstones had great piles of snow on their windward sides. The snow trapped in the graveyard was deep, such that I had to post-hole my way through it. I found my RV and once again boarded a deserted truck for a long and bumpy ride to—surprise—a rural campsite.

Editor’s Note: Let’s all do Geo a solid. Go out and buy his book and visit his website. I promise it’s all good stuff. — GDM