It’s funny, the way things work.
I was very flattered, and as long winded as you’ve come to expect, and what it turned into was my first storytime. One of his questions I just ran with and ran my mouth off with, and I had enough fun sharing that story that I decided to continue doing that off and on over the years.
These storytimes are pretty much a fire and forget missile. I send one off, and it’s in the past. I don’t think about them much anymore. I was there when it happened the first time, I was there when I wrote about it as a nostalgic tour, no sense going back to, like, read it, y’know?
All this to explain why I was surprised when Ganluin sent me an email to tell me the link I had on my blog to the interview over at World of Matticus was broken, and to give me the correct link.
My first thought was, “Matt still has that up there? Wow, I guess stuff on the internet really does linger on like the scent of a bad cheese.”
My second thought was, “Crap, I didn’t know anyone ever read those things anymore. That’s ancient history. Maybe I should, like, go back and spell check my shit.”
I fixed the link, but in following the link over to make sure it worked, I took the time to read the interview through.
I’m going to repost the story part down below, just to save it on my own site for posterity. I’m amazed it never occurred to me that I might like a copy of that someday. I’ve always thought of Matticus as living and blogging forever. He is an icon. An immortal, a living legend, the bringer of priestly fire. What if he were to fall? What if he got abducted by rabid wombats tomorrow? Wombats that needed the best healer in creation for a secret wombat mission?
What if, over the course of his quest, Matticus was overcome with mad wombat lust and chose to make his life among them, his new wom-batty people, and never returned?
What would become of his site then? What of my interview?
Reading through the interview, I realized on top of wanting a copy of the story, I had left out some key visuals that would have helped the picture I was painting.
I’m going to kill two Mogu with one swipe here, post the story bit from the interview, and include a few pictures afterwards that ought to make a key bit of the story a lot clearer.
From the interview with Matticus, my first storytime;
Your blog states that you served in the US Marines. You willing to share any good/humorous stories during your time there?
I assume that the statute of limitations still covers… yeah, okay, so those are out. Hold on, let me think. What can I say that wouldn’t incur legal fines or liability?
I’ll be nice and limit myself to a Marine story, and not include the subcategories of drinking, practical jokes, drinking, crazy physical stunts… oh, wait, that reminds me. Okay, I’ve got one. And I don’t think I can be arrested for anything in it.
So, I’m in the barracks with some friends, in the desert of Twenty-Nine Palms, California. And there are a bunch of us, and we’re bored, and it’s Saturday morning.
One of the guys has a car, which when you’re all PFCs or Lance Corporals, is a BIG thing. So someone suggests we get a shitload of alcohol, bundle some camping crap into the car, and head for Yucca Valley National Monument for some serious drinking and barbequeing, maybe stay over for the night.
Now, at the time I was the ringleader of our little clan, the resident Game Master of our gaming group. (Hell yes, Marines play role playing games. Best groups I’ve ever had in my entire life were with Jarheads. Intelligent men and women, tactically proficient and possessed of wondrous imaginations and low and evil cunning. God, I miss gaming in the service. Oh heck, where the hell was I? Oh, right.)
Right, I was the ringleader. And I usually organized games on the weekend, followed by everyone drinking, listening to Dr. Demento, and then having a steak and lobster tail barbeque in the beer garden outside. Beer garden? Don’t ask.
So I get us all organized, sort out who is going to bring what, then we hit the package store (where you buy your alcohol on base) and off we go out into the High Desert.
And we drive for miles, and miles, and miles. When we finally approach a likely looking campsite near some particularly fine rock formations, we are waaaaay out there.
As the car rolls up to where we’re gonna park, the engine makes some knocking noises… and then with a loud bang! we watch the hood of the car lift up with the force of a massive blow. The car stops. And I mean, right then and there.
So, we look at each other in the back seat, and then we look at the owner of the car. With a deadpan emotionless tone of voice, I say, “Engine threw a rod, Mark.”
He says, equally emotionlessly, “Yep. Looks that way.”
I say, “It’s a hell of a long walk back to the main road, man.”
He says, “Yep.”
I tell him, “Better carry a case with you when you go. And carry a bag. No littering in Yucca.”
He says, “Yep. Damn it.”
So off he went, with a case of wine coolers, to go flag down a ranger. Which he did, eventually.
In the meantime, heck, we had food, alcohol, and lots of free time. This was years before cell phones, so nobody had any way of getting the word out but by walking. Fortunately, it was Saturday, so we had two days to figure out how to get back to base before we’d be missing a movement, namely Monday morning formation. No worries.
Well, at the time I fancied myself a fair free rock climber. I went out fairly often, and enjoyed taking a camera with me to take shots from “How the hell did you get there” angles. I didn’t have any gear with me, but some of the rocks out there were pretty easy grades for a novice. I left the other guys to their drinking, and headed into the rocks.
So I went on in a little valley twixt the steep walls of rock, picked an approach, and started climbing. And the rock out there is nice, there are frequent and easy to reach handholds, indentations, fissures, you name it. I was just climbing to have fun, stretch out a bit. I was wearing jeans, combat boots, and no shirt, because I thought I was quite studdly, and I wanted to get some Sun for a tan.
I am sliding around a steep grade, feet inching sideways on a narrow crack as I work my way over to where I can see the way up is going to be easier. I’m a long way up, but it’s cool. I am pressed flat against the rock, arms spread wide and hands out, kissing the rock good and close, just kinda inching my way sideways.
As I go across this flat steep face, the rock is pretty gritty, and it’s suddenly smooth. It’s like sandstone, with a very fine grade of loose grit on the surface. And I start to slide down.
I force my body closer against the rock, I’m desperate for the rock to love me long time. I mean, I am seriously bear hugging this rock in a way that should require a marriage license and a hotel room.
And as I slowly slide down, I can feel a tugging on my pants as my belt is scraping along the rock. And then, suddenly, hella pain. Somehow, I make myself stop dead, possibly through heretofore unknown psychic powers, I don’t know.
What happened is, the belt buckle post grabbed on the rock, and my belt worked itself free, and the buckle, looped through the belt, came out of the sheath, but was still caught in the belt, all tangled up.
Oh, did I forget to mention that I was an amateur real-life leatherworker, and I’d hand-stitched my woven belt? And I’d used a belt-buckle palm dagger (what is known as a push knife) as the buckle with a sewn in sheath? Sorry, that must have slipped my mind.
Yeah, so the belt buckle came undone, grabbed on the rock, twisted on the leather looped through it, and pointed itself up… into my stomach. Braced agasint the rock.
And I was slowly sliding DOWN the rock face.
Yep, paints a pretty picture, doesn’t it?
So, let’s recap, shall we? I’m way up a rock face, I’ve got a dagger sticking into my stomach, I’m wearing no shirt, and I’m starting to slide down. And as I slide, the dagger is digging deeper.
Now, I calmly access the situation. I am not panicking, but I am 100% aware that I am the stupidest person on the face of the planet, and I’m about to die, die by being stuck with the dagger I myself spent hours crafting into a belt, and the worst part is I have 6 Fosters Oil Cans at the camp that I’ll never get to drink.
Such are the thoughts of a single Marine. Just so you know.
Obviously, I didn’t die. Sorry to break the suspense, but I thought I should mention that, just in case you were getting worried.
Instead, I kept on hugging the rock face fiercely. I slowed my rate of descent, kind of hoisted myself by the skin of my forearms straight UP and then inched the rest of the way onwards to my destination, since I had traveled a hard way up, and then eased my way back down to the bottom of the gulley.
When my feet touched down on soft desert sand at the foot of the rock, I gently pulled the dagger from my stomach, I unthreaded my belt from my pants, and then I threw the entire damn thing with all of my might as deep into the rocks as I could possibly get it.
I assessed my injuries. I had a nicely bleeding, seeping really, hole in my stomach, and the skin on my inner arms, from my wrists to my elbows, was gone. Sinmply gone. my inner forearms were raw exposed meat from being abraded against the rock to stop my slide.
I walked calmly back to camp, and I’ll be perfectly honest here… I derived a certain sense of satisfaction, knowing that my reputation as a bad ass was going to be ramped up a few notches by walking out of the desert covered in blood. Kind of a consolation prize for being a galactically stupid moron.
I proceeded to borrow a buddies’ shirt to wrap up my arms and stomach, after pouring beer all over my arms to try and wash away sand. I’m intentionally trying not to think about how bad that hurt.
I kicked back, had a steak grilled over an open fire, and drank Fosters for the next 8 hours or so, until Mark came back in a park ranger truck, and we carried our happy butts back out of the desert, and I made my way to the base sick bay.
And as I walked into sick bay on that Saturday night, contemplating how to possibly spin what happened so I wouldn’t look like such an incredible dumbass on the inevitable after action report… some corpsmen rushed a guy past me into sick bay on a gurney. And the guy’s mouth was covered in dried blood.
It looked like the guy took a punch in the mouth, but the corpsmen seemed VERY anxious to work on him, so naturally I asked at the counter what was up with him.
Turns out he’d been drinking with his buddies in the desert (surprise), saw a rattlesnake, and decided to show what a badass he was by biting the head of the snake off.
Except the snake chomped his tongue GOOD. And even though he succeeded in biting the snakes’ head off, the fangs wouldn’t release.
I stopped worrying about the reception my story was going to get. Apparently, on a base full of Marines in the desert on a Saturday night, my story wasn’t even gonna make the top three.
All right, so that is the story.
There was one key thing about that story that bothered me at the time, and when I re-read it, it STILL bothers me.
I know what the hell I was talking about with the knife belt buckle thing, and maybe a few other people who read the blog know what they are, but this falls under the category of exotic or obscure weaponry.
I know from some of the conversations I’ve had with many of you that I am not alone in having spent a large portion of my early years mastering exotic weapons. It’s too late for us.
If you are still in your youth, and you are about to embark on a year-long journey of tomahawk practice, this is a protip for you; not once in my entire life have I ever found it useful to be an expert with a blowgun, throwing knives, shuriken, tonfa, tomahawks or butterfly knives. Not once… okay, well, yes. Once. The blowgun. I think I even told that story somewhere, the blowgun mouse hunter. Fine, but that was a fluke, and a professional exterminator would have been a better idea anyway, so it shouldn’t count.
The point is, if you are still young and eagerly practicing your throwing knife or blowgun skills for hours on end… that’s cool, and it’s fun for a hobby, but don’t neglect marketable skills. The market for exotic weapons experts is on the down swing, unless a new season of Top Shot starts up.
In the story, I describe the leather belt I had woven, damn that thing was a piece of work. I spent hours weaving the leather and stitching it so it looked like it was grown that way. The belt buckle part was cute but stupid, and falls under the category of “I collect and play with dangerous things, maybe they’ll rub off and make me more dangerous, hur hur.”
I have not only found pictures of the exact kind of belt buckle push dagger I talked about, but also an example of it both in and out of a belt.
Taken from The Martialist, here are pictures of a belt buckle push dagger and belt almost identical to the one I had used in 1982.
If you look at these pictures from the excellent article at The Martialist, you should immediately see what I tried to describe. There is a steel post that sticks out of the knife body, goes through a hole in the leather belt, and continues to stick out far enough to fit through the tongue of the belt, holding it in place.
This clearly makes a belt buckle push knife one of the stupidest emergency weapons on the planet, since in order to get it into battle, you have to unbuckle your belt.
“Hold on, I’m gonna kick your ass just as soon as I take off my pants!” Impressive battle cry heard nowhere at all ever.
What happened to me was that the metal stud sticking out of the knife caught on the stone, and all of my body weight was on that one point, pulling my belt up towards my stomach as I slid down. The leather stretched around the stud, until I slid off the stud, causing the tongue to slide partly out of the belt, loosening the belt, and giving the knife enough slack to come completely out of the sheath, and then, still caught on that DAMN STEEL POST, twist around and get the knife point up, tangled int he belt which was still looped through and around my waist.
When I wrote it the first time, I knew what happened but I couldn’t think of a good way to describe it. I did my best, but i hope now with the inclusion of these pictures you can see for yourself what a galactically incompetent moron it took to almost get killed by my own pants.
I almost got killed by my own pants!
Still just amazes the hell out of me, and I’m the one that freaking did it!
I’m glad it happened. It’s moments like that, that are well and truly lived. I’ll never forget that moment in my life, everything that led up to it, the whole thing. What I ate that week, what I was doing on base, so much is gone and might as well have never been, but that moment, hell that entire weekend will live in my memory for the rest of my life, and that makes it part of the only life that matters, the part that I can remember and experience again, if only secondhand.
Please, if you take anything away from this story, anything at all, it’s to get your ass out of your house, get out there and do something, anything that is out of the ordinary, because the ordinary fades into nothingness, but the special, the unique, the crazy or weird will remain with you forever.
Provided you live through it, of course.