Well, we’re not talking about cement now…….or maybe we are, but something happened yesterday. It was something most women would have the sense to back away from. Yet, for reasons that are hard to explain, a lot of men, myself included, will go ahead and tackle dangerous and sometimes just stupid projects…just because. Here’s a good example:
There’s a stretch of about 200 feet on the far side of our pond which closely borders a stream. From the edge of the pond to the edge of the stream appears to be about 15 feet. BUT… the path is on an angle that leans toward the pond and the soil is mushy as hell. Stray a little too close to the stream and your right side starts to sink. This is truly a sucker bet but it just looks so innocuous. I edged down, with my grader blade on the Kubota and fortunately I had the sense to ask Pamela to spot for me, just in case things turned to shit…which you already know they did. A hundred feet into the trail, the right side of the Kubota started sinking.
I couldn’t go back, and couldn’t go forward. In another 10 minutes, the Kubota would be sunk in four feet of mud beneath the pond. I flashed Pam our Get Help Sign and pointed toward the house, where the guys who’ve been working with me for the past 45 days were building a wall. Here’s the interesting part: Literally five seconds after Pam got to them, all three guys (middle-aged) were sprinting down to the pond.
Jeff got there first, and said, “Aw shit…” then yelled, “What’s the plan?” I said, “You weigh the least. You drive dead-slow.” Jimmy climbed on the left side like he was hanging ten on a Sunfish, and I did the same , leaning all the way off the left side. A minute later we were crawling up out of the pond and to safety at 1/100th of a mile an hour. We stopped. Jeff cut the power and we all just looked at each other. Jeff and Jimmy said yelled a couple of highly appropriate profanities and then we all started laughing. Jimmy winked and said, “Guess this is your lucky day.”
He was right. And he was right in another way. No one said anything, but there’s a look that went around among us that changes you. Jeff said, “Life is sweet, brother” and that summed it up. We’d bonded. From here on out, there’s a little rule that’s formed. Anybody calls or yells and says, “I’m in deep shit,” you go, do NOT pass Go and think about your options, because there aren’t any. This is something that happens often in the military, particularly when flying. What is known as an “Oh shit” light starts blinking and a siren goes off in you helmet. Lots of bonding and to tell you the truth, I think it’s the bonding that makes guys do what they do in the military, not some abstract concept of loyalty to country.
This doesn’t happen every day in the civilian world. For some, it probably never happens, but Jeff summed it up well. Sometimes life is, indeed, sweetest when you’re all in it together. Things can get really basic, really quickly and you just do what you have to do.
Another Version of Bonding. Medina AFB, in San Antonio, Texas: OTS, officer training: My assigned roommate was a southern gent by the name of Sam Moon…and my name for the first two weeks was, “Godamn Yankee.” I laughed it off at first, but it got old. Then one morning just before inspection, Sam upped the ante. He came over and ground his boot on my spit-shined boots. If you’ve never done it before, it takes about 2 hours to get the shine they’re looking for. In one second, Sam had screwed me to the wall for inspection, at which point, all hell broke loose. I had learned to box Navy-style from my dad, and a left-hook connected with Sam’s nose and left lip.
Blood, blood, and more blood, and I took one in the ear, gut and he ripped my shirt in half. Soooo….what’s the point here? Three seconds later, Captain Grimes appeared in the room. You could hear the fight all through the barracks. He screamed point-blank in my face,”OT Harvey, what the HELL’S going on?” “Nothing, SIR!” “Bullshit! I wanna know what happened!” I said something on the order of “I tripped, SIR,” at which point, Sam Moon was in the same predicament. As it turns out, Sam “tripped, too,” at which point, instead of being gigged-in for the weekend, Capt. Grimes said, “Okay… Very good. Carry on.” When he left, Sam and I started laughing like hell and handing out compliments as to our Yankee-and-Rebel fighting prowess. We remained friends from then on. We had bonded and a life lesson was driven home. No one… No one likes a snitch. First rule: protect your fellow soldier.
This, most likely, sounds pretty stupid to the fairer (and perhaps smarter) sex, and probably it is. None of this is logical, but there’s a sweetness to this part of life that just can’t be quantified.
Sophomore year at F&M, something cataclysmic happened to my sister. When I came back from the phone booth, I picked up my IBM Selectrix and shot-putted it into the dorm room wall. In an instant it was junk. My roomie, Richard Barth didn’t say a word. He grabbed the keys to his VW and for about an hour we just drove around the Amish countryside. That was exactly the thing to do and possibly the only thing to do at the time. He did it….just right. For decades afterwards, despite profound changes in our lives, we’ve kept a basic bond.
Not being of the fairer sex, I can’t really say if things are similar with women. I think if I answered, “Yes…and…No,” I’d be pretty close to the truth. We’re two different creatures who mate and cohabitate. And it works. But we are definitely different creatures. I think women are wired to be more conscious of survival, for themselves, but also for the children they bring into the world.
Family Bonding: This is a tricky category. It can easily go one way, or drastically the other. I think sisters tend to have more close relationships and bonds. Twins, too and Identical twins even more. I did not bond with my father at all. Not ever. This was due in part to my father’s being a “Hemingway-type” alcoholic, which is to say nasty and abusive. The corollary to this is Mom and I did bond. Because of Dad’s character changing when he’d drink, Mom and I protected each other or tried to when Dad went on a rampage. Teachers Scotch was his weapon of choice. Never forgot…
Bonding with your Mate: If you’ve read along over the years, you know that Pam and I are two halves of one whole. The sculpture we have planned when we “graduate” is two individuals flying by clutching each other. One of us has a right wing, the other, the left. And yeah we’ve always been bonded by love. But it goes to a different realm when you’re in the hospital and the big cards are on the table.
And now, in the past two years, Pam got hammered from two sides, Cancer and Lymphedema. That’s when life gets poignant and the other half of the bonding comes out Despite everything, life is sweet now. We’re bonded, glued, stuck on each other for the duration. When we go, we pray it’s fast and takes us both out at the same time. That would be a Win-Win.
And yeah, I could go on and on and on with the concept of bonding When you fly a plane during Viet Nam…OR… have to do what Tempest Officers do, you bond. Too many to describe in detail. A true gentleman named Rogers Gassner must be mentioned. A little bar in Korea, when things went to shit handling a north Korean spy. You bond quickly. And I really, really gotta say, the bonding that’s taking place down here in North Carolina, is just first class. I’m a lucky guy to have Pam by my side. But I’m lucky as hell to have a life down here, where bonding happens quickly and permanently. This is a No Bullshit place. That’s for sure. We’re lovin’ it.
P.S. The world changes, sometimes for the better, but not always. In today’s world it is very much in vogue to be glib, ironic, and snarky and highly self-absorbed. An entire generation with selfie sticks thinking they invented the concept. And the cuts are clever and subtle but usually lethal. It’s pretty much every man for himself…not a good thing. I can’t change that. But when the world is that way, there’s very little bonding. The biggest ‘High’ of all is when you put someone else ahead of yourself…or someone does that for you. Being glib is a piss-poor substitute for love, respect…and bonding.