“Bunny Baseball” was a yuk-yuk phrase that was all the buzz among our student body of Green Beret candidates during the Survival Phase of our training at Camp Mackall in 1983. I heard it over and over as we took breaks between class:
“We’re going to be playing Bunny Baseball pretty soon! I’m going to play it; are you going to play it, man? Hey… hay Hand, are you going to play Bunny Baseball?”
“Who, me? Are you kidding? Why you bet your fat ass I’m gonna play. I can’t wait to play! I’m gonna get right in there with… the bunnies and… the baseballs — and play my ass off!!”
“You don’t even know what Bunny Baseball is, do you Hand?”
“Not as such, no.”
Yeah, no… I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t give a quark of a rat’s tuches what it was because everyone was being all queer about it and I just had a baker’s hunch that I wasn’t going to like it or think it at all that cute. The fact is, aside from the usual exceptions and the many respectable qualities that I admire about the Green Beret stock, the by and large mental dynamic of the crowd was just a smidgen Hee-Haw for my liking. Knowing damn well that I was not “right” and they were all “wrong,” I elected to keep my cavernous pie trap shut and get along with everyone — even if whipped the dog shit out of me.
I recall back in garrison one of my 7th Green Beret brothers happened to make this think-out-loud remark:
“Say, tonight’s Magnum night — cool! Isn’t that cool, Geo?”
“Oh, mother of fucking pearl… is it already Magnum night? Here it is already Magnum night and me, I’m still writing ‘Miami Vice night’ on all my checks!”
“You don’t even know what Magnum night is, do you Hand?”
“Not as such, no.”
“It’s the night of the week when I and a bunch of guys get together in my room and we watch Magnum P.I.!”
“Sweet deal, dude! That sounds like a welterweight hoot, man! Do you all bring snacks?”
“You don’t even know what Magnum P.I. is, do you Hand?
“Not as such, no I do not, brother.”
“Want to come over tonight and hang out with me and the Magnum bros?”
Now gullible me, having already been tricked into one too many homosexual orgies that year, and what with it only being mid-February, I promptly declined. That evening, though, I did partake with my 12” B&W boob tube to momentarily tune into Magnum P.I., long enough to glimpse an eyeful of the shirtless Tom Selleck running down a beach. I clicked off the tube and stared briefly at my stark wall, me awash in resolution and clarity:
“I was right, it was a homosexual orgy — good call!”
Back at the ball field, the cadre pulled us in tight in a horseshoe perimeter as they spoke on and on about rendering animals. One instructor held up a live chicken.
“What do we have to cut this chicken’s head off with, men?”
(all) “A KNIFE, SERGEANT!”
“Sure, but out in the bush we find ourselves without a knife — what do we do?”
“Bite its head off!” shouted a brother and the rest howled with laughter.
The instructor didn’t look pleased as the laughter awkwardly coughed out… and with that the man brought the chicken up, bit down on its neck and ripped its head off with his teeth. It was a bloody mess, it was. The headless torso flapped its wings for a good many seconds and finally died. The instructor spat the head to the ground but never wiped the blood off his face as he continued to speak and dress out the chicken.
“Just how many ‘wilderness chickens’ you suppose we’re gonna be able to catch out there?” one of the brothers whispered doubtfully.
Following that, a goat was brought out and placed in front of us. At that moment an instructor who had been quietly aloft in the trees overhead dropped down on top of the goat, drew his knife and cleanly slashed the goat’s throat. It was a bloody awful mess and the goat cried out like a small child. I was thrown a little off keel by the event but recovered nicely.
Again the instructor spoke as he rendered the goat in front of us, never pausing once to clean himself off of the goat’s blood. Snakes were brought out, killed and prepared for cooking. Finally, a pickup truck pulled up. It had cages in the bed jam-packed with rabbits. Not wild hater rabbits but domesticated pet rabbits. They were white and spotted some with brown and black. These were not rabbits; these were BUNNIES!
“It’s time, man… it’s time for baseball!” One of the brothers chortled gleefully. Per the instructor’s recommendation, the easiest way to rub out your rabbit was to grab it by the hind legs and swing it head-first into a tree. We were instructed to file by to collect a rabbit and terminate it. Then came the crass remarks:
“PLAY BALL!” one called out like an umpire.
“Who’s on first base, what’s on second base, and I don’t know where’s third base!”
“Take me out to the baaaall game, take me out with the crooooowd, buy me some peanuts and Crackerjacks…”
“SWING, batta-batta-batta — SWING, batta-batta-batta…”
“Eh, man… we need a pitcher — not a belly itcher!”
“Check, check, check ‘im out, check that little pitcher out… is he fast is he slow, is he high is he low, is he in is he out — just check, check, check that little pitcher out!”
I hated them all and figured they all got together in the same tiny barracks room on “Magnum Night.”
The pine forest was rife with the crisp thumps of bunny heads colliding with pine trunks at somewhere between 20 and 25 miles per hour. We all paced with the instructor as he dressed out the rabbit while pointing out this and that. He held up the rabbit’s heart and pointed out white spots on it indicating that the rabbit was infested with parasites. Checking our own rabbit hearts most of us found ours to also contain parasites.
As night fell, we built fires in groups to cook our rabbits. For those of us who wanted it, we got a portion of the goat and the snakes to cook and eat as well. I grabbed all I could, not so much for the ecumenical gesture as for the fact that I was just really hungry. We had already been denied food for a period of time leading up to the survival training.
“Going for a time without food makes you think clearer,” an instructor had remarked, to which one of the brothers near me responded:
“Well, it works… because I am clearly thinking I want some damned food!”
With the instructional portion of the training complete, we had our field hands-on exercise to pass a number of days and nights alone in the bush with no food or water and just a knife to fend with. Oh, and we were each given a soccer ball that we were allowed to draw a face on and name Wilson for company.
At a designated time into the training, a truck was sent out to drive by each individual campsite and throw out another Easter Bunny for food. If a man wasn’t ready for it he would miss the only given meal of the exercise. Hence a sundial was essential at each campsite!
I watched my sundial often when I wasn’t busy. I became a clock-watcher — a thing I otherwise despised when I wasn’t trying to survive.
“A watch-pot never boils,” I heard my mother say, as she used to tell us when we were little kids pining away near the stove for our macaroni to soften.
“Yeah, well what in tarnation does that have to do with catching a rabbit, MAAAAAAAAH?!? — why are you even here? Where are you — make us some macaroni and cheese, dammit!!” Hunger hallucinations were a real thing out there during survival.
I snoozed lightly at the very edge of the terrain road where the bunny mobile had to pass by. I had a pile of rocks and a stout branch to whack my bunny over the noggin if the impact of being thrown from the truck didn’t stun it long enough for me to catch it. I sprang to a crouch when I heard the whine of the truck engine. I raised my club over my head and waited. I didn’t care what the driver thought of me.
My combat fatigue top was serving as several things back at my camp, so I never had it on. I was naked from the waist up as my T-Shirt was wrapped around my head like an Arab ghutra. I had smeared mud and boiled sassafras scum all over my exposed skin in order to keep the insects away. I had also smeared chevrons from the juice of smooshed mulberries on my face because they made me look fierce and cool, like Ogallala Sioux warrior Chief Tȟašúŋke Witkó — Crazy Horse!
And somewhere through the thicket a dislodged couple of Homo Neanderthalensis peered at me through the flora and whispered. “Christ, when did HE move out here???”
The truck raced by choking me out with its dust. I closed my eyes tightly and spat a bit, then swung my staff down hard in vain clacking it off of at the rear of the truck. When the dust settled I strained my view, and there I saw the white bunny sitting in the road. Shaken though it clearly was, it flashed a Cheshire grin at me and then scampered down a nearby rabbit hole. I wheeled about expecting to see a little girl chasing after him.
“I’m not going down that hole after him,” I vowed, “that would just be Tweedle-DUMB!”
We had a list of survival tasks that we had to complete in order to A: survive, and B: pass the phase; all of our tasks were graded at the end of the field exercise. I had a shelter and fire pit, water storage, snares, traps… and a combination of a compass rose and sundial forged and scraped into the ground. I spend a lot of my free time tweaking those two things, as they were of personal interest to me.
“I… that… it…that’s the most remarkable sundial I think I have ever seen. And that compass rose — Good Christ, man! What is that rock structure there? exclaimed the cadre who came to grade my camp at the end of the exercise.
“That’s nothing, Sergeant; it’s just a pass-time.”
“Yeah, but what is it?”
“Well, it’s a scale model of Stonehenge I was trying to replicate.”
“Stonehenge? What does it do?”
“It’s supposed to calculate the opening and closing of the four seasons — seasonal transition, Sergeant.”
“My… GOD!! — does it work??”
“I don’t know, Sergeant… I didn’t really have enough time to test it.”
And so it went.
By Almighty God and with honor,