If you have not read part 5 yet, you can check that out here

The Five F’s

Fort, feet, fire, food, fast asleep. The morning found me sitting on my rucksack, nursing a cup of tepid coffee. It was no longer snowing, but the temperature had plummeted. When the hearse arrived, my coffee was almost gone, not so much from having drunk it but rather from having spilled it due to shivering so hard. I approached the rear of the hearse, the stallions snorting and stamping. I cast not a glance skyward to the constellations.

Welcome to Casa de Geo.

When I departed my starting point, to omit all conjecture, I deliberately set an azimuth straight to the twilight zone, where I would spend the next three hours clicking my heels and chanting, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.” The route beyond the twilight zone was typically fraught with the usual mind games of doubt, second-guessing, and resignation, spiced occasionally with the warm feeling of actually knowing where I was—both on the face of the Earth, as well as on the map.

Groundhog Day Revisited

“Get in the truck,” the cadre beckoned. He threw open the back panel, and there sat Bill Murray. “Welcome to Groundhog Day, George. Get in!” Bill bade me. I humbly accepted. Bill slowly faded out and in faded one, and then several of my fellow candidates, gaunt and sunken-cheeked, looking like plates of cold leftovers. I read the words forged in wrought iron at the top of the truck bed, “Arbeit Macht Frei,” as I passed under them to enter the bed of the truck. I took my seat on the wooden bench as the zipper zipped shut. In near-total darkness, we were tucked snug in the bed; visions of rural or urban danced in my head.

When the back panel next opened, the scene from the back of the truck was rustic and wooded, scenic and comfortable. There were some 15 of my peers all gathered together in an amorphous tent city of sorts. They were all close to each other, chatting and working, and there was a central fire pit that they all chipped in to tend. Cooking and bare feet prevailed. Guys wore sandals or stepped gingerly in bare feet around the fire. There were canteen cups held up in toast to us as we hopped off the truck.

Home Sweet Hooch

We intermingled with them and erected our “hooches.” There was no HOA here; do what you want, build how you want, any shape, size, or color. Fuck me running, I had died and gone to Woodstock! We settled in, performed work priorities, and sat one final time with no intention of standing again until morning. My greatest thrill of the day? My buds P-Mac and Mike P. had made it all this way, and we sat up together talking, or not talking, far past the rest of the guys who had since turned in to sleep.

Tomorrow clearly would begin the long walk. We had already been issued our report times. We exchanged times and vowed that we would back each other up to make sure we all got up on time. My report time would be 0130 hours. I would back that off with enough time to have my last cup of coffee. My canteen cup already had water in it and was covered by a piece of cardboard with a rock on it to keep dirt and insects out of it. My heat tabs, matches, coffee, and cream packets were all laid out in a neat array that I could find and prepare in the dark.