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Monday, March 31, 2014

A Private Truce

Have any of you ever had seeming unrelated, random thoughts pop into your head? You know the type; while gazing at an early Spring snowfall, the memory of the grilled bologna and Swiss cheese sandwiches, with spicy brown mustard, served by the local bar back in the old college town pops up.
Where did that come from???
A similar experience took place the other day. Actually, two such experiences took place, if one counts the above bologna sandwich example. 
Many of you may be nodding your heads, thinking; “Yes...yes... this does indeed explain a lot.”
But, I digress.....
For some reason, I find myself doing some of my best thinking while in that last bastion of male-hood; the shower. I have also found this to be a wonderful time to pray, as there are no interruptions. The other day, while contemplating the immensity of God, I experienced on of those “Huh??” moments.
For some unknown reason, a completely unrelated story arose in my head. I sometimes wonder if this is not a result of being folliclely challenged. There is very little hair to serve as a filter for random thoughts bouncing around in the air.
Allow me to relate....

My Dad was a WWII veteran. He served in Europe as a tank platoon commander. (For more details about some of Dad's service, see the June 6,2013 entry “D-Day”). He was in the Third Armored Division of the First Army. He saw action from Normandy to the Netherlands to Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge.

At one point, he and his tank crew found themselves a few miles outside of Liege, Belgium. For whatever reason, there was a lull in the fighting. Having concealed their Sherman tank in a woodlot, the five crewmen were enjoying some quiet relaxation outside of their machine.
Before long, the bawling of a cow could be heard. Some of the crew advocated butchering the bovine for a supply of fresh meat. Others were noncommittal. Dad, having grown up on a farm, recognized the sound for what it was; a dairy cow in great need of milking.
Following some debate, and the fact Dad was the Commanding Officer, he and 2 others set off in search of the source of the mooing. .
Before long, the band of GIs came upon an abandoned farmstead. There, in a small barnyard, stood a lone cow, greatly engorged.
Rummaging in the small stone and beam barn, they found a bucket. Being the only farm-boy in the group, Dad crouched beside the grateful animal relieving her of her burden while the others stood guard.
That night, as darkness crept over the Belgian country-side, five American soldiers luxuriated in the heady delight of fresh milk.
Shortly after sunrise the following day, Dad sent another country boy off with the bucket for their morning treat. The man returned much sooner than he should have, with a bucketful of air. Dad asked what happened to the milk, and the man sheepishly replied; “Sir, there was a squad of Germans milkin' her.”
Incredulous to learn they had bivouacked so near the enemy, Dad and two others set off for the farm.

Creeping stealthily through the woods, weapons at the ready, the little band approached the edge of the barnyard. Through the brush and undergrowth, they saw a German infantryman crouched beside the cow, milking while two others stood watch, Mauser rifles in hand. Silently, Dad motioned for his men to withdraw. Three rather glum soldiers returned to their area. No milk with C-rations this morning.
When evening came, Dad and two of his crewmen set off once again with the bucket in hand. Seeing the barnyard vacant, the GIs approached the cow, and soon began to milk her.
For an inexplicable reason, Dad lifted his head to look across the cow's back. As he did so, a coal-scuttle helmeted head popped up above a mound of hay. Both adversaries' eyes locked upon one another. One of the tankers turned to see the German soldier. As the man was raising his M-1 carbine, Dad quietly said “No. Wait.” All the while he kept milking the cow while looking at the German.
After what seemed hours, the young German soldier raised his hand. Dad raised his hand in reply. The three Americans watched as the young man turned to walk away, empty pail swinging at his side.
The following dawn, the tankers slipped out of the tree-line to find the same German soldier and 2 friends already at work in the barnyard. Tentative, nervous waves were exchanged across the barnyard, and the Americans withdrew.
The cow, being completely unconcerned with Geo-political events, followed the twice daily course Nature had prescribed for her. When the afternoon shadows lengthened that day, once again the tankers crept toward the barnyard. The found the cow, patiently awaiting milking. The Germans had given her fresh water and feed. No where was a German soldier to be seen. Upon completion of milking, the soldiers watered and fed her, as well as rubbed her down with some old burlap sacks they had found.
The next morning found the tank crew sleeping in, allowing their recent adversaries  free access to the cow. Again, at evening, the Americans milked her in solitude.

For six days, this unspoken truce held. Then, Dad's unit was called upon to move out. The tankers would never know if they ever met their fellow dairymen upon the field of battle.
They only knew, and were eternally grateful for, a period of time when guns were silent while opposing combatants observed a private truce, built upon the daily needs of a lowly Belgian dairy cow.

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