Mil­i­tary jus­tice

Camp mem­o­ries still painful

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - David Muise

Cadets’ money-mak­ing scheme didn’t pan out.

Fol­low­ing my un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence at Camp Carmel, I avoided sum­mer camps for many years. The ban was fi­nally lifted when I was in air cadets and had a chance to go to camp at CFS Greenwood. I had never been off the is­land so this was a chance to go all the way to the An­napo­lis Val­ley.

On the first morn­ing of camp we fell in for an hour of drill be­fore we went to break­fast. I had stepped on a nail a week be­fore but didn’t tell any­one for fear I wouldn’t be al­lowed to go. When the sergeant saw me limp­ing he sent me to the med­i­cal cen­tre where the doc­tor gave me a tetanus shot and a note ex­cus­ing me from drill . When Mike learned about this he be­gan a des­per­ate search for a board with a nail in it.

On the sec­ond morn­ing I was as­signed to cleanup duty which in­volved sweep­ing the floor of the Greenwood Gar­dens, the base’s rink, where we went for breaks. I soon re­al­ized that the sweep­ings held a for­tune in cig­a­rette butts, a golden money- mak­ing op­por­tu­nity for Mike and me.

On the third morn­ing, and again on the forth, Mike pre­tended to faint and was soon ex­cused from drill. With the team back to­gether we hatched a plan to col­lect cig­a­rette butts and hold on to them un­til close to the end of camp when money was short and the ad­dicted would be will­ing to buy cut-rate smokes. Ever the schemer, Mike de­vel­oped a keen sense of tim­ing and would holler “fall in” just as many of the guys were light­ing a sec­ond smoke. This guar­an­teed prime butts.

On the fifth morn­ing Mike found a black marker in the broom closet and drew sergeant stripes on the sleeves of his shirt. I was soon pro­moted to corpo- ral. Mike was quick to take com­mand of the cleanup crew, now ex­panded to six, in­clud­ing Pierre, from Shippe­gan, N.B., who spoke lit­tle English. We spent hours with him learn­ing how to curse in French.

Ever vig­i­lant for in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties, we soon opened a shoe-shin­ing busi­ness and re­cruited Pierre as head pol­isher. He had come to camp with no money so wel­comed the op­por­tu­nity to make 25 cents a pair. We never told him we charged 50.

In the fi­nal days of camp busi­ness was brisk, just as Mike had pre­dicted, and by the last day we had a tidy sum in the kitty. As we ex­changed our sum­mer uni­forms for the win­ter ones we had worn on the trip from home, the cor­po­ral at the desk told us to re­port to the drill sergeant’s of­fice.

“Prob­a­bly wants to buy some smokes,” Mike said with a gig­gle.

The sergeant was a gi­ant of a man who we had come to fear in our short drill ca­reer. We were marched into the of­fice where he stood ram­rod-straight, hold­ing a khaki shirt in each hand.

“How do you ex­plain this,” he de­manded, un­fold­ing the shirts to ex­pose black sergeant and cor­po­ral stripes: “De­fac­ing Her Majesty’s prop­erty is a se­ri­ous of­fense.” We were too scared to speak. “You’ll pay for these shirts be­fore you leave or we call your par­ents,” he said, as he tossed the shirts into the waste­bas­ket.

We passed over our cig­a­rette and shoe-shine money and were re­leased from cus­tody in time to board the bus for home. As we passed through the gate we saw Pierre com­ing from the can­teen with a pop and bag of chips. With no money for lunch, all we could say was “Tabernoush!” I’m just sayin’...

David Muise prac­tises law in New Water­ford. He wel­comes reader com­ments and sug­ges­tions at davidqc@shel­don­nathanson.ca. His col­umn nor­mally ap­pears in the Cape Bre­ton Post ev­ery sec­ond Mon­day.

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