THE BIRDCAGE

Discussion in 'Vietnam Stories: By John H. Wilborn' started by Guest, Feb 25, 2003.

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    low2go
    J. Wilborn
    Posts: 24
    (2/8/01 3:31:41 pm)
    Reply THE BIRDCAGE
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    5 October 1970… An NMCB-62 fuel truck struck and injured a Vietnamese child. Vietnamese forces held the vehicle and demanded VN $200,000 for injuries. Negotiations for settlement were conducted in the district headquarters and a solantium payment was made and the fuel truck returned.

    THE BIRD CAGE AND THE CHILDREN
    Local military commanders in the DaNang area of operations were encouraged to hire the locals for menial chores such as cleaning, laundry, and shoeshining. There were even natives working around the kitchens in non-food prep areas. Somehow, these laborers were provided with a pass for that base or area only. Non-appropriated funds were used for their wages --details were worked out so well that the overall operations run very smoothly. The females, and most of the laborers were adult females, were untouchable. There was to be, and I believe there never was, any unfortunate incidents.
    In our Senior Enlisted quarters (hootch), there was this woman named Hoa. Hoa used to bring her two children to work with her. One was a fat baby, gender unknown, and the other was a small girl about five years old. While the mother washed a mountain of clothes in a white plastic bucket, then hung them to dry, and then ironed them, the fat baby laid on a straw mat, watched by the older child. In a seemingly endless fashion--day after day--the same routine--all day long--. The children had a small, but very shrill bird in a small cage--not a hanging cage mind you, but more like a basket that was coarsly woven from sticks and straw. The fat baby would lay on the straw mat and watch the birds antics--the baby would slobber and drool--the more the bird would chirp and twitter, the more the babe would drool. The girl child seemed to be bored with the bird--she’d wipe the baby spit and watch the baby--nothing to do with the bird--no other diversion for her except to watch the baby---finally boredom would prevail, or the baby would need a nap, the girl would throw a dirty cloth over the bird cage. The bird would settle down---the show would be over.
    One morning Hoa come to work without the five year old girl. The word was passed down by the other workers that the young lady had been run over and killed the previous afternoon in the busy Freedom Hill traffic.
    There was a survivor program that the American Forces had for such a contigency to pay a compensation to the family---it had been an American military truck that had run over the little girl. In addition to those funds, our Chaplain, bless his old bald head, garnered contributions from the troops for the family. More than a thousand dollars was collected and turned over to the Mother. She continued her work without hesitation--the fat baby still laid on the straw mat while the Mother labored-- washing and ironing and shining. Never heard the baby cry--not once--it didn’t drool or ogle any more either--the bird cage was gone--I suppose it perished with the young child. I often think about the bird--I think of it and those times as I feed the wild birds out in my back yard. What kind of bird was it--what kind of birds lived in Vietnam--maybe a sparrow--God put sparrows the world over--and I think of the fat baby--had the child survied the war, it would now be in it’s middle thirties--maybe the bird was a wren or a warbler or a mourning dove--maybe even a falcon that had escaped to freedom when that terrible event had occured--yeah, I’d like to think a free bird--a falcon.
    Wilborn sends.
     
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