Story - Two Holes
By Michael, AZ
Elliott was running as fast as he could, hoping and praying he didn’t stumble and fall to the frozen earth because he had to get out of here quickly. The big trees were coming down fast and he sure didn’t want to be any place where one was coming down. Chunks of splintered wood was flying through the forest at horrific speeds and made an angry buzzing noise. The situation was surreal, the tree’s falling made him think about being back home on the farm in West Virginia mowing the sweet smelling hay, watching the clover neatly fall as the sickle bar passed below. It surely must be a defense mechanism that can cause our mind to go some place that is peaceful and tranquil when we are facing extreme danger. Sadly, he wasn’t on the farm, but far away on another continent running for his very life. Then one of the big 88’s landed much too close and Elliott knew he wasn’t in a sweet smelling hayfield. He wasn’t running now but cartwheeling through the air. When he landed, he couldn’t catch his breath, he couldn’t think and couldn’t hear anything. Then his senses slowly started to return and he got to his feet, found his M1 Garrand and continued running again, as best he could. He came into a small clearing and noticed a depression in the ground and dove in. Elliott couldn’t hug the ground close enough, and he had a death grip on his Springfield. He noticed a German soldier running for position about 100 yards away and Elliott fired a round at him, but he was shaking so badly he missed a mile. Finally the shelling stopped and he was very aware of his body parts, wondering if any were missing. His left leg had a burning sensation and he noticed a two inch slit in his pants leg. A piece of shrapnel had cut his leg but it wasn’t bad. The stock of his M1 was missing a chunk of walnut and the gas cylinder was history. No wonder it malfunctioned after he shot at the soldier. He had survived another barrage but wondered how many were left in him before his time would run out. If only the weather would clear and they could get some air support.
It was Dec 26, 1945 and Elliott was in the largest land battle of WW2 that any American troops had any involvement with. It would be known as the Battle of the Bulge and Elliott would lose 19,000 of his American comrades in this battle. Elliott was in the proud and fierce 101st Airborne that had been holding Bastogne since Dec.16 and the siege the Germans had enforced on them was horrible. The German army wanted Bastogne as badly as the allies did. Hitler needed Bastogne to springboard his last attempt to stop the allies from invading the Fatherland and turn the war around. Elliott was doing all he could to disrupt those plans , but he and his friends were paying dearly. It wasn’t until Gen. Patton could move his Third Army in to counter-attack the Germans that had Bastogne surrounded that Elliott and his 101 st could get a chance to feel relief. They had it pretty bad, being surrounded by the Germans. Their only hope for supplies and medicine was by air-drop and the weather was so bad the drops were far and few between.
Elliott got on his feet and ran to the front again, spotting his buddy trying to pull himself from under a big tree limb that had him trapped. As Elliott got close he could tell his friend was hurt pretty bad. The limb had fractured his leg and he had a bad gash on his back that was bleeding profusely. Elliott screamed for a medic and put a compress on the open wound. His buddy was conscious and looked at Elliott and said “Country, light me a cigarette, will you buddy?” His friend was from Chicago as most of the fellows were from a big city somewhere: New York City, Philadelphia, New Orleans, St Louis, most all of them were city boys with nothing in common with Elliott After a while one of them started calling him “Country” and it stuck. Not that they didn’t get along, because on the battlefield you have no doubt who the enemy is.
Carol Elizabeth was hanging out the laundry and noticing what a beautiful spring day it was. But no matter how beautiful the day was, her Elliott was still off fighting a war and her heart was very heavy. Now she knew how her mother felt when Carol’s father was gone in World War 1. Every week there was news about another young man in the community that wouldn’t be coming home, and every trip to town she saw the vets with limbs missing. To be honest, Carol was pretty bitter about it. They were both so young and had a whole life ahead of them, and there was her husband in the middle of a war and a good chance of never getting the opportunity of living out their lives. Just wasn’t fair somehow, but she knew thousands of young brides were thinking the same. She let her mind drift back to the last day she spent with her Elliott Elliott and Carol had got up early that morning and decided to take a long walk in the woods. They just wanted to be alone for awhile. Carol had packed a picnic basket and they knew where the most beautiful spot in the world was. It was a giant hickory tree that they picnicked under with a wonderful little stream flowing close by. They were always sure to get a chuckle watching the antic’s of the squirrels, but somehow, today they just couldn’t laugh. She heard a car driving down the lane and snapped back to reality. She looked through the billowing clothes to see Country’s mother driving way to fast and swerving the car up to the house. Her knees buckled as she could only think about the bad news that must be on the way. Her mother-in -law was running towards her laughing and crying at the same time, “The war is over! Elliott will be coming home!”
Country worked for a couple years in a machine shop and he loved it. Every day was different and was a constant challenge to figure out the best way to get the most from every machine the shop had. Country learned quickly and got pretty good with the milling machines and lathes. He got very attached to a sweet little J-Head Bridgeport and woe to anybody that left it dirty! He and Carol were doing very well, the economy was booming and they now had a family started. They had saved some money and it was their dream to get a little land to play with. Country’s war wounds were healed now. After he lost his buddy from Chicago, he took an 8 mm through a kidney from a sniper. The pain was still there from losing all the friends during the war, but he was very grateful he got another chance and had Carol Elizabeth to come home to.
It was almost 1946 and Country had seen an ad in a trade magazine at work one day. Seems International Harvester was going to do some hiring and the more Country thought about it, the better it sounded. He had loved growing up on the farm and this would give him an opportunity to make a good living and also be with his beloved tractors and farm equipment. IH was already an old company and still growing strong, a good place to work, but sadly they would have to move. They put Country in with a new project from the start. IH was going through some big changes and Country learned Ford had done a lot of damage to the IH sales department when they come out with their 9N tractor. Thanks to a fellow named Harry Ferguson, and the genius of Henry Ford, it had a three point hitch and a good hydraulic system. The little tractor was a plowing fool. Once a farmer saw one in action, nothing else would do. So IH had to do something with their line of tractors to keep up with sales of Ford. The powers that be at IH had also made a decision to manufacture a very small tractor with a good hydraulic system and a fast hitch. This was because a lot of the boys that came home after the war were working in manufacturing jobs and running a small farm part time. This little tractor should be cheap enough so the fellows could afford to buy one. This little tractor was the one Country would be working with. After a lot of sweat and tears, a prototype was finally built with several implements. Country was one of the fellows that did enjoy his work. Everyday was a new ball game and different from the last so it never got boring. I will tell just one little story about Country that happened to him through all the years he worked there. They were developing implements for the little tractor and there were many to come. They were working with one that mounted under the floor pan and between the dropped axles. There was an adjustment that had to be made to the implement at certain points in time and it was very difficult due to the location of the adjustment. Country, getting pretty disgusted and taking some skin off his hand once again doing the adjustment one day grabbed an acetylene torch and cut a couple holes in the floor pan. Bingo! The adjustment was now a piece of cake! The draftsmen added the two one inch holes to the floor pan blueprints for the die makers. Sadly this was one implement that didn’t make it. It was decided it would be cost prohibitive to manufacture, so it was dropped from the list of many. The two holes would remain in the pan, they never did remove those punches from the die. Now sure, nothing terribly noteworthy about all this, except Country would carry around the answer to a mystery and never tell anybody. Three generations later, Country would be at a tractor show some place and invariably he would hear somebody ask somebody else why the two holes in the pan? Some fellows were bound and determined to find somebody that had the answer. Country has heard every answer imaginable but never heard the correct answer given. Sure, he could tell them, but shouldn’t every man have a secret that nobody else knows? He chuckles to himself whenever he hears an explanation. So now you know why the two holes are there, but I will never reveal what the implement was. That’s my secret!
All characters in this story are fictionalized. Any persons resemblance to living, dead, or somewhere in between is coincidental.