by Sandy McQuarrie from Orleans, ON
This story takes place back in 1965 at Fort York, in Soest, Germany. My fellow young officers in my battalion (who would be arriving in Germany a few weeks after me) had asked me to organize a party and to invite some of the young teachers and nurses working for the army so we could get to know them.
I did as I was instructed.
Unfortunately, by the time the day of the party arrived … about three months later, I had forgotten to remind the officers that we had organized a party. In fact, I had forgotten myself!
And so, when the young women arrived at the officer’s mess, they arrived to find it empty. We were all at the battalion hockey game. When we returned there were about 20 ladies sitting in the mess. And not in a party mood.
I was immediately attracted to a beautiful woman named Helen. When the night ended I asked her if I could drive her home and, to my astonishment and delight, she said yes. Obviously she was impressed with me, I thought.
In reality, her roommate, with whom she had come to the party, had left in disgust and Helen needed a ride to get home.
I borrowed another officer’s car and drove Helen to a small village called Westhonen about 15 kilometers away. During the drive I asked her if she would accompany me to a party at a fellow officer’s home in two weeks. Again she surprised me by agreeing!
As we approached the town Helen told me that the easiest way to get to her home off the highway was to see the village sign, count three trees and then turn right and I would be on the right road.
I told her that I was an officer in the battalion’s reconnaissance platoon, that I always knew where I was and that I never got lost. Rather than being impressed, she looked at me slightly doubtfully.
Two weeks later I dressed in my regimental blazer, put on my duffel coat, and set out in my friend’s car in reasonable time to get to Westhonen by 8 pm.
Now before I continue I have to remind you that it was a cold, dark and wet November night. My military friends will remember that type of night in Germany. I need sympathy for what follows from the rest of you.
I saw the sign that said Westhonen, counted three trees and then turned right. Using my highly honed skills I immediately realized that I was on the wrong road. You would think that I would have returned to the highway and started again. Instead I opted to explore the small village on the expectation that I would soon see Helen’s house. That was my first mistake!
My second mistake was to drive up a farmer’ track and then accidentally drop the right rear wheel into the ditch as I attempted to back into the farmyard to turn around. I got out of the car (in the rain) to assess my situation.
Realizing that the situation I was in was similar to some of the army’s initiative tests, I decided to find a pole and lever the car out of the ditch. After some searching I found the perfect pole and began to push and pull it to get it out of the ground. A few moments later it was loose, and I turned to take it to the car. That was my third mistake!
After two steps I was jerked backwards and fell on my back in the mud. I picked myself up and then I removed the clothesline. Now I could get on with my original objective.
Placing the pole under the bumper, I proceeded to give a mighty heave.
The pole broke, I fell forward, hit my chin on the bumper, and ended up face down in the wet, muddy ditch.
After I came to, I took the jack, raised the car, pushed it off the jack, raised the car, pushed it off the jack and continued this until I got it back on the road.
By now I was so late and I thought that I might as well give up and go home. I got into the car drove around the corner and saw Helen’s house. I figured what the heck, I might as well see if she was ready. So I rang the doorbell.
It was the smartest thing I ever did.
Helen answered the door, took one look at me, shook her head and said “Let’s get going”
It was only later that I discovered that for two weeks her roommate; who you’ll remember was the one that abandoned Helen at the party, had been telling Helen constantly for those two weeks that all army guys were only after one thing. Even though her roommate may have been right, I can only assume that Helen decided that she would take the risk.
I have to say that I got some strange grins from my fellow officers when we arrived … late and with me covered in mud. I’m not sure what they thought we had been up to.
Helen and I got married about 18 months later.