In the Beginning…

Hidden Treasures
149

The models displayed in the waiting room at my clinic have
sparked many a spirited conversation.

Welcome to the inaugural installment of the new online Guncrank Diaries. This should indeed be a weekly exercise in excuses, alibis, pithy observations and general ephus. Some will be about guns — others will not. It is my intent to bring you humor, pathos, patriotism, exultation and tragedy. I’ll keep at it until you grow weary, my bosses at become overly concerned about lawsuits or the sun burns out. Frankly, I’m giddy at the prospects.

It is my hope that you will be intrigued, entertained, and perhaps infrequently, agitated by my writings. I aspire to touch a nerve on occasion. If you really despise something, just be patient, as next week will likely be entirely different.

History, politics, current events, childhood, impenitent exaggerations and outright lies —our source material will span the breadth of human experience. Along the way you’ll get to know more about me than you’d like. (Try not to be disappointed unduly.) So, sit down, strap in and hang on. We’ve got places to go and stories to tell!

Hidden Treasures

They’re all around us, though you must be looking. This gent resembles a human bulldog. He’s 5’7” and has a nose that has clearly seen its share of pugilism. He’s stocky, without being fat, and exudes a quiet confidence at 80-plus years. This elderly gentleman presented to my clinic for some medical issue or other.

When he opens his mouth, it becomes patently obvious he’s not from around here. His British accent is so thick and unrefined as to almost, but not quite, pass for Australian. We get through the obligatory medical tripe in short order and I inquire as to his curious origins. How might an 81-year-old Limey find himself dwelling in the American Deep South?

His tale is indeed as convoluted and intriguing as one might imagine. It orbits around a lifelong quest pursuing kids and grandkids. They settled in Mississippi — therefore, so did he.

The waiting room in my little medical clinic is awash in wooden models. In the years before I started writing, I spent my free time in my modest workshop. As a result, an ample glass case in the waiting room is populated with dozens of scratch-built scale models of tanks, warplanes and spacecraft. Hanging from the ceiling are hand-built large-scale renditions of each of the four helicopters I flew while in the Army. This collection has sparked conversations uncounted. In this case, my new friend asked if I had ever served in the military.

Would you trust a child with an airborne war machine? Me neither, but Uncle Sam felt otherwise.

I condensed my Army career down to about 30-seconds of tedious monotone and inquired the same of him. He clearly carried himself like a soldier. He humbly replied that he had logged some 13 years with the British Paras. Now ravenous for details, I pressed further. It seems a not insubstantial subset of those 13 years was actually spent with the 22nd Special Air Service (SAS).

For those who might not be into such things, the SAS is the apex predator among the world’s Special Operations Forces. The U.S. Army’s Delta Force was patterned after the SAS, and Selection (with a capital S) to secure an SAS billet is universally recognized as one of the most arduous undertakings in all of human experience. This quiet little man had been places and done things that normal folk only read about, and even then, only rarely.

The SAS takes their operational security very seriously, even decades afterwards. I posed a few seemingly innocuous questions and got cagey answers. Then I asked about Borneo and the Gurkhas in the early 1960s. I had recently crafted an article about that tidy little war and the details were fresh on my mind. My new buddy’s eyes lit up like he had been electrocuted. “Ah, the Gurkhas,” he exclaimed. “I trained those guys.”

He said there was literally nothing a Gurkha would not do if asked. He said he could likely tell one of them to leap out of a plane without a parachute and they’d do so without hesitation. The Gurkhas are a warrior tribe like no other. They typically have around 140 eligible candidates for every operational slot.

That sparked a delightful conversation about Sterling submachine guns, L1A1 SLR rifles and the L4A4 Bren. What started out as just another elderly patient ended up as a fascinating new friendship with a truly extraordinary guy. They walk among us, my friends, you need only keep a weather eye out to see them.

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