Sunday, March 26, 2017

GW26: The measure of a man, the measure of a mission (part 4)

Part 4: The Cold

My first morning of my first GulF Wars, ages ago in spring of 1998, saw me wake up with frost on my goatee. My stiff, sore, and still tired nineteen-year-old self-lumbered out of bed that morning and made my way across the road to the old bathhouse, at the time, the only shower building on site.

I walked in the door and was greeted to a sight I could not have imagined in my more fevered dreams.  There were no less than two knights, two kings, and two dukes standing in a quarter-circled in front of the hanging gas heater, slowly rotating like hens slow-cooking on a spit.

How do I know these six random men were knights, kings and dukes?

Because between them, they were clearly wearing white belts, gold chains, appropriate Corrientes...

And not a damned thing more!

To this day, I enjoy telling that story to help highlight how off-kilter we were (and to some extent still are) in the society. But also, for me, I think the more lasting lesson was how much of a factor the weather at gulf wars was each and every year. It wasn't something to got away from, it wasn't something you could just deal with; it was there, surrounding you, ever second of every day.

Whether it was the impressive heat, the biting cold, or the driving rain (or the occasionally evil wind of whatever strength), mother nature was a bigger presence on site than any crown, or any part of the castle.

This year, that character was misjudged.

I remember laying in bed those early nights, a layer of silver foil and heavy foam below a flannel sheet beneath me, and above me three blankets and my cloak, and still waking up to biting, searing pain in my fingers and toes from the cold.

A month before, we had laughed about moderate temperatures and calm skies as projected by weathermen on three states.

Before dawn of our second day on site, my son had woken up to discover a single leak in the tent had allowed one drip of icy water to soak his sleeping bag.

Two weeks before, we had watched with calm interest as talk of   "an off chance of rain" hovered over the second half of the week.

Crawling out of bed each morning of this war took force-of-will that I can assure you my nineteen-year-old self did not have. There was just no trick or method of dealing with the fact that I was effectively getting out of bed in the middle of a meat-locker.

A week out, we had considered packing for a wet war, with reports of "light rain" still hanging over the whole week, on and off, here and there, depending on what weatherman you were listening to.

By dawn, Monday, the effects were setting in. This wasn't a war without enemies, this was a war where mother nature was reminding us who was in charge. As a matter of personal policy (mostly for health reasons) I made sure to shower each morning. It was a necessary evil, and while the shower house at the end of Queen's highway had hot running water, nothing else in the building was heated, leaving anyone there to just tough it out as they dried off in 35 or 40 degrees F air.

I know I wasn't the only one feeling it either. The whole site was just a small measure more subdued, more restrained, more careful with what energy they had to spend. Late night conversations and parties were quietly ebbing out earlier, and reunions with old friends were cut short when eyes started drooping sooner rather than later. We were all feeling it, and we were all doing the best we could to cope with it, but no fight was had without some cost, the fight against the cold was had with what was probably one of the more finite of recourses that war; energy.

It has been said that fate is a cruel mistress, but this year just reminded us that nature is little more forgiving. There was, without question, a lot of fun and joy had and shared at this war, but it was very much had in spite of the weather rater than alongside it.

His Lordship Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"Long Live the King!"

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