When Big War II broke out, every red-blooded American kid who believed in baseball, cowboys, and the American Way shouldered his Red Ryder BB gun in the relentless struggle against tyranny. The scenario involved the building of small forts hither and yon in the Colorado foothills so enemies of the free world could be stopped when they invaded from California.
Obviously kids in those days were ahead of their time.
One particular high-water mark came when my friend Smooth Heine said, “Tell you what, let’s put some land mines up on Castle Rock. That way we’ll zonk the enemy before he knows what hit him and drive him back to the West Coast where he belongs.”
It seems obvious today in this super-smart world that we were not well versed in geography, but posing as the Two Horsemen of the Apoplexy — that’s what we called ourselves in those carefree, black-and-white days — we were well versed in wartime intelligence having spent many hours at that fountain of all combat knowledge, Dell Comic Books.
So on a clear June day we packed some green apples and soda crackers and headed up a nearby slope of Castle Rock. I should add that we chose this particular slope, because it was replete with yellow clay and sprinkled with ragged volcanic stones.
The reason I mention the clay was, foxholes took a scant few minutes to hollow out, and when dampened, it served as mortar for our stone fortresses. The clay also permeated our clothing, lending us much needed camouflage.
So we built two forts, holes about five feet across, carved out of the clay and bordered with stones the size of footballs. The forts were located defensively across a ridge but were hidden under brush so they couldn’t be spotted by Luftwaffe pilots on their way to bomb Denver.
Then we built our land mines, which were clay dams that held back dozens of stones on the steep slope. The clay in turn was fenced off by brush and held in place by single twigs tied with ropes that led to our forts. Our notion was to jerk the supporting twigs and cause the dams to collapse, thus sending the rocks cascading onto the enemy. Talk about your land mines.
Finally we were ready. We hunkered down in our forts and kept trails up the mountain under steady fire. By late in the afternoon we had already emptied two rolls of BBs and wiped out two Panzer divisions and a battalion of Nip marines, and we hadn’t even utilized our mines.
Little did we realize that at that moment an emergency council of enemy powers was taking place in my family’s kitchen. An Axis spy — a Mata Hari type secret agent who bore a striking resemblance to my sister Gazelda the Fifth Columnist — had informed on us to the enemy.
Mom told Dad, “I think you should go up there and find out what they’re doing.”
“Aw Essie, don’t worry,” Dad said. “Nothing will happen to those boys.”
“I’m not worried about the boys. It’s what they might be doing that bothers me.”
The upshot was, Dad rounded up Smooth’s father, and they trekked up the mountain toward our battlefield. It was a hot day, and they sagged somewhat by the time they reached the No Man’s Land between our forts. (Some ominous music would go well here.)
Meanwhile, we Two Horsemen were preparing to unleash our land mines on a new platoon of Japanese riflemen we’d just conjured up, and Smooth shouted, “All right, men, on the count of three, yank your rope. One, two….”
“Wait a minute, Sergeant,” I yelled. “Isn’t that…?”
I don’t have room here to detail what happened next, but I will say our mines worked in spectacular fashion. Stones burst out of the dams and roared down the mountainside straight for — OH, MY GOD! — our fathers.
I never realized how athletic fathers could be if a situation called for it. When Dad saw the rocks coming, he yelped and, like Superman, leaped the irrigation ditch in a single bound and levitated into an apple tree. Mr. Heine, meanwhile, ran on top of the water down the ditch and didn’t get his boots wet until he slowed down at his farm.
Needless to say it became apparent after the battle that we should abandon our forts and seek some desperately needed R and R. From a secret spot in hay bales in the Heine barn, Smooth whispered, “If the real truth ever comes out, we’ll probably get medals.”
“Yeah,” I said, glancing over my shoulder. “Posthumously.”
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales.