Ken's & Friend's RCAT Korner (stories)

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This page provides stories by Ken Fraser and his RCAT friends

Ken was at Oscuro Range Camp, near Red Canyon, White Sands, New Mexico
(where they launched the RCAT drone planes as Nike Ajax targets).
RCATS and Whirlygig V5 .ppt 10 megabytes, from Fred Butcher
an RCAT only version 1 megabytes
Links to OSCURA RCATS INDEX and Camp Wellfleet, spotted by Doyle Piland
"Oro Grande East RCAT Camp" launched RCATs for McGregor Range and Hercules missiles.

OSCURA RANGE CAMP
WHITE SANDS PROVING GROUND
1957-1958

Oro Grande East RCAT Camp

Figure 1

M33 Radar Van Techs

Ken is all dressed up ... and going where??

Yur 'goin to shoot

at that pretty little airplane?
Figure 3.
R-CAT with JATO bottle on launcher

Norma Jean (Marilyn Monroe)

with RCAT - from and more here. spotted by J.P. Moore ;-))

More pictures at Camp Wellfleet - RCATS

Figure 1
This is a photo of ORGY, (Oro Grande East RCAT Camp, McGregor Range) which nicely shows the green wooden utitlity sheds. I am almost certain that in the story, "Up The Mesa Ride", 'Capt Huggartz' and 'Lt Brethlas' emerged from the second from right. It was another brilliant day and this made the inside of the shed a black void. When the Lt emerged it was just like in a movie, he was putting the web belt around his waist with the Colt 45 hanging on the right and he didn't break quick stride. They were very grimfaced and I thought 'oh, oh, something is going on.' In an instant, everything got very serious
The barrels in front of the sand bags are in The Storage Area and this is where the ani-freeze shipment was at when Cpl Ferguson got into a brand new barrel.
Between the sheds and radar vans is where the 'copter would land to pick us up for target recovery. Behind the sand bags are the generators.
I think the larger shed on the left is the messhall.
This view is looking north with the road in the foreground heading into the desert and the photo taken on a guard duty Sat or Sun in latter '58.
"The Bag" was in back, north side, of the first two but that was in '59.

Figure 3
Here is the pix of the nose-on view of a JATO launcher with RCAT. I think this was taken Feb/Mar '58 and from the shadows, near high noon with almost everyone in the mess hall. There are many details in this photo that might prompt questions but tonight I will stick with the Launcher.
In the foreground is the 'fill cap' for the piece of 2" x maybe 3' long pipe that was filled with water which 'braked' the cart at max speed of launch. The other end had a piece of cellophane placed over it by use of a special threaded fitting. Look for a little shiny spot in the lower center of the cart and that is the end of a maybe 3' x 1 1/2" pointed piece of pipe that was driven into the 2" 'brake'. The water absorbed the energy of all and sprayed out under great pressure: the cart stopped and the 'Cat kept on going. Worked beautiful.
Behind that and going on top of the rail is the flat 'top slide' that carried most of the load and each down angled leg had rollers that cupped little guides along the bottom two corners of the triangular rail. The main body of the rail was three equal pieces 1/4" steel with, I guess, 7" or so diameter holes cut in them: these lightened and strengthened.
There were three maybe 5/8" pins on the cart that inserted into the fuselage of the 'CAT: one on the bottom and one on each side. A cotter shear pin was inserted and this kept the yowling target on the cart.
The main axle carried double springed floating secondary wheel axles.
On the ground to the right rear, as viewed, is a live JATO bottle layed there to be inserted into a socket inside the back half of the cradle. The bottle was inserted after the 'CATs engine was peaked/tweaked and then wired to a plunger. As the JATO stopped screeching, the cart 'spike' drove into the hydraulic brake tube, the cart jerked to a sudden stop and off went the target. I watched many launches and never got tired of it. Especially at night. (Gotta stick to the techie.)
The red thing hanging on the left side is the 'Cat engine starter. It was a McCullogh loggers chain saw engine slung into a framework that swiveled up to the engine. Pins matched into a the prop hub. On the right of the 'bike type handlbars is the thumb throttle. The launch crew took turns doing this. The trooper doing the start had to stand in front and after the engine started it was very dangerous when letting the starter engine back in place.

ps - the little white buildings in the background were our barracks. Mine was the one on the end closest to the boonies.

Hey, Hatz, Did you see this one?
It had to be coming down on its' chute because the chute department is open and mt and if the
target was flying on its prop the wires would have thrown it back, broke, or cut into the wing.
Recovery might have stood on the top of a duece/half and removed the chute before this pix.
Ken.

Table of Contents
(Most recently added items are at the top of list.)

Promised: The Rabbit Hunt, Himself, Qualification, Redthom, Stomper, Misunderstanding, Again

True Stories - Unpublished Work Copy 1995 Kenneth P Fraser
OTHER STORIES
OSCURA RANGE CAMP
WHITE SANDS PROVING GROUNDS
1957 - -1958
Sputnik, The Launch Crew, Windy Day & $5 Bets, Mule Deer Feast, Attitude Adjustment, Two Oldtimers, The Orange Juice Caper, Four Garbage Cans, Mesa Climb, Atomic Bar Party, Launcher Explosion, Finger Stitches, Dust Devils, Blizzard, Penny Blackjack, The Inspection, Latrine Lady, Snake Season, Rotary & JATO Launch, Ceiling Dollars, Hercules, Lobo & Sheba, Chute Riding & Land Surfing, Beaver Flight, Standby, Prickly Pear

&
CARRIZOZO, NEW MEXICO
Arm Wrestling Ordeal, Gold Prospecting, 60 MPH Twister, Lito & Tito, Leiand & Julia, Bat: Jack & Cat, My Malt Shoppe, Dead Cow


Flying RCATs - revisited by Jim Hedlund received Aug 2003

Flying RCATs - revisited


by Jim Hedlund received Aug 2003

Here are my memories of the RCAT rotary launcher at Oscura.

It was a little sad seeing the launch track unused and overgrown with weeds. When I was stationed at Oscura in 1956 it was one of the busiest places at White Sands. Mostly I saw the launch area through the optics from our M-33 radar van which was near the camp and several hundred yards from the track.

The RCAT was on a wheeled rack which was hooked by cable to a post in the middle of the track. After getting up to speed the RCAT would take off, flown by a sergeant with a remote control box. Then the control of the RCAT was switched to a sergeant in our M-33 while we locked on to the RCAT with our track radar. The whole operation was done very quickly.

Sometimes they'd be a malfunction on lift off and the RCAT would go cart wheeling across the desert, much to the amusement of us watching from the radar van. "Well, there goes some more of the taxpayers' money."

After lift-off the controller would fly the RCAT in wide circles, getting it up to a high altitude. This was the boring time. The track radar would be locked on to the RCAT so we didn't have much to do.

The hum of the radar unit and the rising heat inside the metal van would start to make us sleepy. Too much beer from the night before didn't help the situation. Then the controller would call out "altitude!" and we'd all snap back into action. The controller would then fly the RCAT north to Red Canyon where the Nikes were waiting.

The word would come from Red Canyon the Nike was ready to fire. This was pucker up time. Looking into the optics we could see nothing but blue sky because of the distance. Then there would be an explosion in the middle of the cross hairs. Nice kill! We'd have to scramble to lock back on to what was left of the RCAT. The Army wanted to know where it went down before sending out the recovery crew.

If there was a miss the controller would try and fly the RCAT back to Oscura. Sometimes he'd wait too long to pop the chute and the RCAT would come in low and fast over the camp, scaring the hell out of everyone.

After the RCAT crashed or returned near camp we would swing the tracking radar back down to the track for another launch. So it went all day. Hours of boredom and moments of pure excitement.

After climbing back into our buses we drove into the camp at Oscura. I couldn't believe it was still there after all these years. Now it was so neat and tidy. Mostly all new buildings. Where were all the young GI's that used to walk around the area with sun-tanned fatigues, shirt tails out and sleeves rolled up? We were a scruffy looking bunch of desert rats. Nothing but memories now. You can go back to a place but you can't go back to a time.

I wonder if anyone still spends the night at Oscura. If they do, maybe over the sound of the wind they can hear a ghost RCAT flying north to Red Canyon, and maybe at Red Canton there are still phantom Nikes streaking into the night sky.

It's a nice thought anyway.

---

Jim Hedlund
Questa, New Mexico


Naval Launcher Evaluation

Naval Launcher Evaluation

by Ken Fraser Early 1958

Good generator buddy Robert E Gottschall and myself would hear rumors about different things and those in the top secret category were quietly passed between ourselves: only when no one else was nearby. I always knew when he had a good one because of the slight difference in his walk, when he spoke his head was just a little tilted to the right and the words came from the right side of his mouth, slow and deliberate. When it was really good, after glancing around, just above whisper he would start with; "Did you hear the latest?"

My mind would clear and I’d reply, "No, tell me!"
If it was my rumor the words were almost identical, but after glancing around I would face the ground and barely move my lips to let him know. For example, from somewhere, one of us learned that the Hercules also had a ground to ground capability and the serious knowledge was that to change it from ground to air, all that was needed was an Allen wrench. This was used to loosen a ring in the nose section, rotate it 90 to 180 deg and retighten: a few minute job because the approximately basketball diameter ring was built right in, part of the outside and once loosened, turned with ease. Also, the Herc booster was simply four Ajax boosters strapped together and the Herc had an accurate ground to air range five or six times an Ajax. The range was so great because of the huge sustainer motor. When we learned about a, ’Zeus Project ‘, our reaction was close to that of having seen Buck Rogers.
Most of our rumors were not this intense, but for two low, ‘low-tech‘ guys, this was very heavy stuff, and we would six-pack about all of this as often as we could. We would warm beer buzz-bobble and agree that we were in the midst of the latest and nothing we saw, or heard about, could be told to anyone else.
And so it went, week after week, until around ?, (I’m not sure when) Robert E(I think it was he) told me there was a rumor that could not be believed and this was that RCAT, ORC, had been slated to test and evaluate a new type of launcher, that soon we were to get one of only three existing and this was a most important assignment: it was straight from the Pentagon through White Sands. Excellent results would have major impact on future naval ship design and near future use on present vessels.
Wow!!
Who else could stretch its limits except us, but doing all this for the Navy??
It didn’t sound right, and as best we could six-pack, the major of many loose ends was that this was too secret/important for ORC and would be handled by White Sands proper if such a launcher existed. The only guys that knew anything about everything, and some knew more than that, were in the radar vans with secret and top secret clearances: they never told us anything except when they jawed about the quality of our electricity causing a lot of their problems. The Launch Crew couldn’t care less about anything that happened, the Target Techies let on they knew nothing and all we could do was make the direct approach to the ’Old Army’ NCOs.
--Yes, there was a prototype launcher on its way: yes, it belonged to the navy: yes, they should test their own new gear but were paying the army because we had the operating facility and personnel needed: yes, it might be dangerous: yes, we didn’t have the time but this could be done on weekends if ordered: yes, expensive, about $250,000: yes, it meant a lot to the navy: yes, and to the army: yes, the army was getting the results for free and: "Shut up, wait till it gets here and we’ll do as ordered".-- These guys had seen it all before.
Good Generator Buddy and I let it lie and in not too many days everyone was told the Test Prototype Launcher would arrive soon. What perked the whole camp was that we were to be ready to look our sharpest because there was a real Hollywood film crew coming out just to film the tests.
Oh, indeed, this had to be a good one.
The ’Old Army Guys’ weren’t impressed even a little bit: the responsibility was right on them and the other NCO’s and their attitude towards a Hollywood film crew was the same as they had towards the local big ranchers*. Maybe worse.
Such nonchalance, such sophisticated disinterest prevailed amongst the Rodents and when this vaunted launcher arrived, meaning the Hollywood guys had to be close, the order to look sharp was not truly necessary.
So much, seeming non-real, to tell you.
The Navy launcher used a similar ‘Cat cart as the JATO one and the rail was maybe 1/5 shorter. The impacting difference was the mode of propulsion.
Resting close to the ground at the start end, hugging the rail, were two objects each about the size of two foot lockers stuck together, but more as square and with rounded corners. With the coil spring suspension and tires a little forward, they were each one on a side and looked like large misplaced saddlebags. These were two V4 gas drive special air compressors that pressurized a reservoir which fed a compressed air mechanism which pushed the ’Cat cart, thus, effecting a launch. Size, weight and location of all was just right because the teeter-totter effect firmly placed the rail’s snout at the optimum angle.
Ingenious, joyful engineering.
250,000. 1957 dollars?!! For downsizing a real launcher, adding two air compressors with a pusher of sorts, etc??? (and rod?).* All of that doesn’t matter very much because the navy was paying the bills and their launchers were, in fact, catapults.
During the first day, all those interested went out and satisfied their curiosity: some looked at the mechanics/engineering, but most wanted to see what could cost all of that money. The Launch Crew received their OJT and I’m not sure but I think the film crew got there later that day.
Anyway, late the next morning, all was almost ready for the first launch: the ’Cat in place on the trolley, generators rumbling, radars peaked, controllers anxious, Launch Crew giving its best ’big deal’ attitude, and the sharpest bunch of troopers you ever would see nonchalantly loafing about. (my boots had three layers of shine).
Enthralled, leaning with arms folded on the brains end of a Hobart generator, I watched as the Launch Crew pumped up the contrivance, let this first ’ Cat, engine and prop yowling at peaked rpm, dramatically sit a long time, and then someone tripped the trigger.

Ed, the total of the Hollywood 'crew' was so unreal I walked in about a 50 yd radius semicircle to make sure hidden film crews weren't making a movie within a movie. I checked all through the boonies. If I did not see this I would not have believed it. The director was so garishly garbed he flashed like a rain forest caterpillar.
The next day, pumped up to past max pressure, this thing exploded with a "crack" that hurt my ears and a piece went ’whoosh, whooshu’ (low frequency sound), close enough I could feel a breeze on the right side of my face. I looked over my right shoulder, saw something bounce for about 10ft maybe 25 yards away. It was one of the oil sight glass made up mostly of steel flange and ’round as big as a softball. Four launch crew guys were standing within 5 feet, two on each side, and not one was hurt.


Killed - Twice

Killed - Twice

by Ralph Hatzenbeler

Ken,

I just read your story about a Nike coming down.

That happened to me and a couple guys when we were due West of Oscura. I believe it was on a Saturday and we were flying RCATS, but they weren't shooting at them: at least thats what they told us. ('they' - Red Canyon)

We were out just for the drive and had no intention of picking up any targets and ran into a a guy who was driving a water truck, or grader, can't remember. We could hear an RCAT all of a sudden and we looked up and saw the trail of a Nike coming at the 'Cat.

It hit the target, and the target was coming down on the chute, right over the top of us: boy, I thought this was going to be easy, if I planned it right I could of put the truck under it before it hit the ground. We were standing there waiting, licking our lips as this was going to be easy, and no one at camp was going to believe this.

All of a sudden we looked up and we could see the con trail of another Nike coming at the Cat on its chute: that Nike exploded just above us and we all headed for the duce. We waited, and in a few seconds here comes pieces of the 'Cat and what is left of the Nike, falling all around us. We picked up what was left of the 'Cat and headed back to camp

To us, it was just another day at Oscura.
Hatz.

Kens note - Hatz is referring to the story, "Two Greenhorns"
When I edit, I try to stay close to the original words.
Comment from Technical Purists is welcome!


Hatz' JATO

Hatz's JATO

by Ralph Hatzenbeler

Ken,

This happened maybe late 57 or early 58. Three or four of us were laying around the barracks, talking about the good time we had at the Atomic Bar the night before: we were broke, half sick and very bored. Then, I remembered about all the round mine air shafts we had seen out on the range, when we were out picking up targets: at least those targets that the thieves from Red Canyon hadn't stolen. Most of the shaft holes were steel lined, about the same size across as a Jato Bottle, (6 inches-?) and we got to talking how far would a Jato go if we were to lower one down and set it off.

"Great", I told them, "lets try it".

"The four of us got a duce, went out to the launch area, picked out a bottle, some wire and a plunger, and headed out to find an air shaft. If I remember, we headed North from camp and it took a while, but we found one. We took all the gear, went over to the hole, wired up the Jato, slowly lowered the Jato down into the shaft, ran the wire about ten or fifteen feet from the hole and hooked it up to the plunger. Now Ken, I had made a few trips up to RC to watch them fire a few Nikes: when they touch that button, those missiles are gone. The point I'm trying to make is, when we touched off the Jato I think it left as fast as a nike would.

"It went up out of sight, and what goes up has to come down and the four of us ran for the truck and waited: nothing happened. Only God knows how high it went and where it came down! We got the plunger, got in the truck and headed for camp where we went to the launch area, dropped off the plunger and parked the truck.

"Back in the barracks we talked about the good time we had at the Atomic Bar the night before and we quietly swore to each other that we would never talk to anyone about what we had done. That was almost 45 years ago.

"Now, if anyone thought they had seen a UFO I'm sure it was that Jato.

"Hatz

Kens Note -- When Hatz says "range", he includes the mountain foothills on the west side of then Oscura Range and other hills that are wherever. The "mine air shafts" could be just that, but are possibly weapons test bores, installed by the military for seismic readings, (anybody know?)


The Mighty RCAT

The Mighty RCAT

by Ben Allgor

One Friday night during my tour at Red Canyon Range Camp, I was on K.P. while the mess hall was held open far into the night so that one unit could have dinner after they completed the firing of their three missiles (which was unsuccessful). They had been trying since Monday to get their system and missiles ready to fire so they had apparently had many problems. During and after this long wait, I wrote this short poem about the events.

 
 
The Mighty RCAT
 
 
It's Friday night, three missiles unfired.
The K.P.s are waiting the K.P.s are tired.
 
The mighty Nike arose with a thunderous roar;
A missile was fired from launcher four.
 
The power arose to make men free;
And tumbled down on Area Three.
 
 
It's Friday night, two missiles unfired.
The K.P.s are waiting the K.P.s are tired.
 
A crimson shaft arose in the night;
The Nike began its deadly flight.
 
A burst appeared way off in the sky;
The target unharmed continued to fly.
 
 
It's Friday night, one missile unfired.
The K.P.s are waiting the K.P.s are tired.
 
A button was pressed. A Nike was fired.
A colonel got drunk. A captain retired.
 
Off in the distance, in the still of the night;
"To hell with you all. I'm still in flight."
 
 
 
Ben Allgor
 
--
C. Ben Allgor, PE
Consulting in electronics, measurement, embedded systems.

mailto: benallgor@ieee.org 
Tel/fax: 616-657-4871


The Stomper

The Stomper

by Ken Fraser

Oscura Range Camp, Aug or Sept weekend, '57

I was walking in the latrine roof's overhang shade, maybe 50 yards 'due east' of my barracks and was near the 10ft wide doorless entrance when I noticed some motion way out and south of myself.

I looked over my right shoulder and saw a fatigue wearing average sized GI jumping straight into the air and coming down hard, quickly, again and again. He was in the hot midday sun just past the RCAT Arctic Hut, (ha, ha), day room, (laugh again), building, half between it and the frame building across the way. Hurrying my stride I tried to figure out why he was doing this because the distance made details difficult.

Looking around and not seeing anyone else, I did a fast, hard left through the doorway and went to the northern trough wall so I would be far into the building and out of his sight. I feared he was in an uncontrollable, physically violent frustrated mood and didn't want him to see me and start this all over again: after a few more stomps he simply ceased and casually walked out of sight behind the day room.

Waiting and watching for a good two minutes in case he came back for more, my curiosity overcame my sensible caution and I had to trip to that place to find out the whatevers. Inconspicuously glancing to my right as I did an easy stroll, when closer I saw sort of a lump on the flat, barren, dusty ground and dropped the fake to save time.

Damn.

There lay a rattlesnake, not big, not small, not stretched out but not crooked either, with it's head plus a couple of inches busted up pretty good. Stopping a safe stride short I carefully walked around it and standing still on it's north side made my observations.

The lower jaw was skewed to the left around 3/16", it's short fangs each on about a 45, the left eye glazed beady and the left top fang, 3/4" (?), seemed normal. The pinkish glistening right side was different with it's eye hanging loosely on a whitish thick thread and the upper fang sticking straight out front. The head itself was sort of flattened and parts of the maybe three foot long and couple of inches wide body were out of synch with the rest: on the end was a, I guess, 2" or so rattle and after a few minutes, knowing it had to be graveyard dead I decided to take the rattles for an unwarranted trophy.

I stepped forward, and not having a knife was going to pick it up behind the bad part and carry it to my barracks to show and tell the boys and then cut off the rattles.

When my right hand was around 3 to 4 inches from it's head, the sneaky s.o.b. came back to life: with lower jaw flopped it snapped its head at my hand and was close to biting me with its four fangs. At the same time I unbent, I went into the air a foot or so and two feet back, took a fast long step backwards and noticed it was again still but now knew it was not dead, just beat up and setting a trap.

I was so scared I couldn't breath!

After I got my breathing back to near normal, I decided I couldn't go for a mop handle or some rocks because it might get away and bite someone. Besides all that, it was my turn but I didn't know what to do.

Deciding to make the first move, I cautiously took small steps forward till I was within leap distance and stood absolutely still: spring back ready. It didn't do a thing but wasn't going to fool me again: No Sir!

I took a really deep breath, jumped up and forward and cursing my best came down with both heels on its head. Up and down, ranting, cursing, up and down just like the first guy: I did this until the head and about six inches with it were mixed in with the dusty ground and only itty bits showing what it might have been; but now, 'twere pinkie, brownish muck.

With pride I stood back for admiration time and saw to my right a staff sergeant and spec 4 from Engineer Det 6, sticking just their heads around the corner of a building with parts of their right shoulders in view. Both of them had that look on their faces and I knew they thought I was temporarily insane.

Staring at them, I thought, 'Let them think what they want and to hell with the rattles!' ; they ducked back real quick and I walked behind our day room and out of sight.

As I walked to my barracks and then lay on my bunk, I couldn't figure how that 'radler' could have survived the damage from the first assault: yes, and still have enough attitude to pick on me.

Recalling almost too late the unheeded wise advice that a dead 'radler' can strike till sundown, (or something like that), I sought and found an ORC old-timer who told me a 'radlers' strike system, the sensory organs, nerves and necessary muscles stayed responsive until the body was cold. Aha!

To this day, I wonder who the first guy was and if I were the second or third.


(Copyright by Kenneth Pratt Fraser)


A REALLY BIG SNAKE

A REALLY BIG SNAKE

A REALLY BIG SNAKE

by Ken Fraser

At Oscura, rattlesnake season OJT was never, ever walk close to a barracks or any building with a crawl space or open porch that could be a den. Never, ever round a corner close to a building: not just because you might surprise a rattlesnake but you might bump into another RCAT GI who could be in a bad mood.

It didn't help to be told that when rattlesnakes shed they are with pain, blind, in a very bad mood and will follow by infrared just to bite. Foolish not to heed.

"SOP": When a warm six-pack or two had to be rid of at night it was real fast out the door, get 20 - 30 feet away into the open area and turn in a circle: don't worry about the wind.

It didn't help to be told that under our barracks were the most snakes because it was on the end and closest to the boonies.

Want to hear something really scary: have someone stomp on the barracks floor really hard a few times and hear all those rattles. One guy was in a mean mood and wouldn't stop: They rattled all over the place, thick, edge to edge. A monster and its buddies let loose right below me. The barracks was full of us and Sgt. Lane threatened physical violence, (he could back it up), and told this stomper, "Cut that shit out" and when he didn't said, "If you want to see something pissed off and dangerous you just keep that shit up and it's gong to be me." Sgt. Lane never swore:

Immediate tension, because some of the guys were enjoying the pissed of snakes and some, (me too), were on Sgt. Lane's side. The 'Stomper,' real nasty faced, looked around and I'm glad he stopped. Funny now, but not then.

I'm certain this guy is Bird, now a rancher in Oregon and of course, still a good buddy of Hazard Hatz. They are going to meet half way to each other in Walla Walla and Hatz is gong to find out if Bird was in my barracks. Damn right, walla walla: sounds just like them. ;-)) [I won't tell Hatz why I have to know. This way he won't forget ] :-D

Thanx, I enjoy.
Ken.


(Copyright by Kenneth Pratt Fraser)


The Bag

THE BAG

THE BAG

by Ken Fraser (Oro Grande East Camp - Late Summer - '59)

The new operations pad was completed and loaded with the toughened transplants from shut down ORC, other high-tech guys, serious nco's, lots of the latest equipment and the regulars from Bliss. With all of the radar vans, acquisition radar's, air conditioners and generators, it was a busy place but I can't remember where the generators were because we had so much help I seldom got near them.

For a brief time they called me a 'Section Leader' because I was an old Oscura hand, had unit seniority, kept the records and was good at passing on information and requests. That way if there was a screwup it was my fault: good system if you're not on the bottom. I spent all day doing paper work, loafing, seeking/keeping gossip to myself and gladly being put out of sight and mind: stayed away from the hard work

The ops pad was on a manmade sand flattop ashphalted hill about 15 feet high, 200 ft long or so, 75 feet (?) wide and the only authentic part of the whole mess was the Operations Shack which I think was brought down from ORC: an unpainted wooden shack that was crowded when more than two were inside, built who knows when from scrap or stolen 2 by 4's, boards, planks, screening and etc. There were pigeon holes for flight documents & etc's on the back wall, a few shelves on the other walls holding coffee cups, more paper work and just scrap paper. As you entered, the radio and handle-crank phone were on the left near a waisthigh lean on piece of plywood used as a desktop and each side had a screened opening: efficient, practical, some might call it quaint. The door, also home made, was full screened and strong sprung so that it slammed with little effort like some of it's users.

At the north end, the pad turned into a two lane blacktop right turn road, down a slight east slope for about a hundred yards to what was left of the old operations area: this being three sturdy, green, white trimmed, maybe eight ft square and eight feet high at the peak storage sheds, on skids, and the old operations shack, now the CQ's room and generator section office. This shack, my office, was about seven feet square, same construction as the one on the hill, but without screens, and connected to the hill's WW2 handlespinner telephone.

Nestled to my office was the mess hall, a nicely built big screened affair with the floor about 2 feet off the ground and would feed maybe 30 at a turn. These buildings fronted south, about four feet apart and ran west to east with the mess hall far east. Between the 2nd and 3rd sheds some plywood had been put across, from low eave to eave, thus giving shelter from the sun: a faded olive green and dusty, hung The Bag.

There were two plank benches and a couple of wooden boxes for loafing in the shade: nailed to a corner was a partly rusted small cone paper cup dispenser and beneath The Bag was a sump of sorts: this was a two foot on a side square of half buried in the sand two by fours that contained what was the richest of soils, created by the daily waterings: this soil was pitch black and so potent it bubbled stinky little geysers of it's own gas.

Close by and in a different place day to day, was a dented flat gray three gallon pail used for a trash can: several times each day, myself or one of my buddies would police up the paper cups and other trash that intentionally missed when thrown at the pail. My good buddies and myself wanted as little attention as possible to The Bag operation, trying to keep it exclusively for the good guys because this was the only place at *OroGrandeEast that was a neutral let's relax and socialize center.

Only one nco constantly came around: he was shrewd, short, wiry thin, tough, had dark hair, dark darting eyes, a quick mind, a cynical sense of humor and reminded me of a street urchin. The shade provided and the damp Bag with its sump gave a cool spot: if there was any air movement at all, there would be a nice little breeze coming through. When all others were busy it was nice to sit there, sip ice water, relax and look north, through and over the mesquite boonies. Being located and arranged just right, there was zero sound from the south side of the sheds, not a sign of civilization, not even a telephone pole was in view to spoil the imaginations of not being there.

This was a far safer operation than ORC but it had it's moments. Two of these involved a recovery deuce and a 3/4 ton Jeep. I know they didn't make a 3/4 ton Jeep, but this was a 3/4 ton Dodge with a wannabe Jeep body and we had to call it something. The third was when an armed, misguided Hercules came right at us: memorable was the heroic, selfless actions of Msg. Lewis, who, though terrified, with intense self discipline and at great possible risk to himself, used his precious seconds to warn everyone else!

One other time I have been privileged to be sheltered by such bravery and that is described in the story, "Target Coming In," when a GI charged through our barracks warning of an out of control target. So, tranquil as compared to ORC, *OrGE had the edge of tension when in operation.

Anyway, around 8:30am, a bored two man detail would arrive in a Jeep carrying blocks of ice under insulating canvas covers and hauling a leaky, two wheeled, sand blasted olive drab, oval shaped perhaps 200 gallon water tank. Silently, they would walk north through the shaded little tunnel, lead man first fully opening The Bag and dumping some of the old water by pushing up the bottom and his buddy would then drop in several large chunks of ice: the first chunk would go 'k-splashed/thump' as it hit the left over water and simultaneously hard hit the bottom: the various corners of the ice block made sharp impressions through the side and bottom of the jerking bag. After tossing in two or three other chunks, which made a distinct sort of half-hollow 'thunk' sound as they hit the one below, the water detail would boringly pour in five gallon Jerry cans of water till the bag had stopped it's gentle swaying and was almost full, throw in two light brown small cookie shaped tablets that looked like radiator leak stoppers, secure the top and leave, all without saying a word. Not even a good-morning.

I understood. The day had it's good start and a little after nine the troopers from the pad would mosey by for a sit down, small talk, and nice drink of ice-water. There was a bag on the pad but ours was preferred as we had seats, were concealed, and attracted the guys with attitude. They would show up in two's and three's and the occasional single drifter, grab a paper cone water cup, toss back two, three, maybe up to five good hits and each would always save a little from the last, swiftly toss that to the side with a downward slash, or splash it into the sump: depending on the macho: crumpling the cup and tossing it at the trash can, or just giving it a little flip towards same: many missed. They knew we knew they didn't give a damn and we knew they knew we didn't give a damn either. Everyone understood.

The most useful days for The Bag would be Mondays, especially after payday weekend. Many would grimly approach, quickly fill and quaff down cup after cup: sometimes bumping shoulders with others crowding the bag as they flushed the hot dusty aching down their pipes. A few would hard gargle, swish and spit, giving the impression they were wanting to cleanse their mouths and throats of what they had swapped over the last day or two. And so, it went on.

Finally, tired of always having to pick up after these guys, someone bashed off the cup dispenser and hung on nails several brown Bakelite coffee cups from the mess hall. This was not appreciated because it caused a wait for a cup and who would want to use a cup after the garglers, swishers and spitters: now, before each drink, a disinfecting rinse and toss: more macho. Very soon, almost everyone brought his own cup: worked out good. For more than a few days I noticed the water, even when fresh, had an unpleasant tainted taste and also the other drinkers were not as enthusiastic as they had been. When the bag was almost empty, and the water just cool, the taint was strongest: in fact, nasty. No one really paid much attention: didn't care.

This passed.

Now, we were wrinkling our lips and stroking the inside of our mouths with our fingers because it felt as if we had little teeny hairs in our mouths, but could never find them. This went on for days: irritating, strange, --- but, --- so what.

After noon chow in front of the mess hall and holding a full cup of iced water, I was about to take a drink, looked down into the cup and noticed just an instant of a teeny glimmer. Curious, I looked into the cup from different angles and with the sun just right, saw there was what appeared to be a spider's thread about two inches long suspended near the bottom: slow, careful turning and searching revealed more of same but not as long. I was determined to find out what this was, called over one of my buddies, showed him and as he watched, using the middle finger of my left hand, I carefully, slowly drape-nurtured this 'whatsit' out of the cup and held it aloft. It looked just like a teeny little hair and unless being hit by the sun at just the proper angle it was invisible!.

Without a word said, my good buddy and I quickly went to the The Bag. We reached up and assumed the top would just slip off. Not so. As often as I had watched the water detail fill the bag I didn't learn the 'trick' necessary to remove the top and my buddy and I pried, twisted, pushed, pulled and cursed without result. We were just too low-tech. Somehow, an enclosed very tough steel ring was clamped over same at the top of The Bag and made an extremely strong and tight fit. Surprisingly so, as we couldn't stick our fingers underneath to gain leverage, all at once we had it half way off and I don't remember how. It so happened that I was positioned to quickly step onto one of the benches, grab the top of The Bag, pull down and peer in.

In a brief moment, my eyes adjusted to the dimness and I enjoyed a pleasant and cool dampness as I breathed in. I then first saw a thick, grayish, sickly, very fine, about 1/2 inch long hairy type growth covering the side from the surface edge of the water to, and also covering the bottom. The water was maybe 10 inches deep and for around 6 to 8 inches above that there was a darker colored gray greasy slick scum coating the sides. Repulsed, I recognized this to be some sort of a fungus or mold, immediately felt a little sickened and then saw the source of the teeny little hairs and the nasty, foul taste.

Therein, suspended in the clear water about half way down, one a little above the other, bitty noses pointed north were two, -- get ready for this -- , decomposing adult kangaroo rats. They looked like identical twins. Good grief!! Shocked, I quickly looked out over the tranquil desert to clear my mind, poked my face back into The Bag and did a careful observation. I knew this was a most unique situation. Excepting for a tuft on the end of their tails and a little short furred collar around their necks, they were hairless, smooth white skinned: naked. Their teeth showed, eyes were gone, little ears sticking out, innards were twisty-meshed, pasty pink, as if they were garden worms left on a hook in the water too long: this and other stuff hung out from the full body length split opened tattered undersides.

My good buddy had become inpatient with me as I ignored his pleas of curiosity. I stood back, moved over a few feet, sat down, said nothing and looked again across the desert. He jumped up on the bench, looked inside, outside and back inside. The expression on his face cannot be fully described. Absolutely incredulous.

Stunned, going through my mind was that we were all going to be sick and maybe someone would even die from a strange malady. With these fears growing and multiplying all by themselves, I just sat there and wondered about the near future: looking around but not really attaching anything seen to the present or myself. Scared, helpless.

At this time around the corner came our good sergeant buddy. He looked at my good buddy with his head in The Bag, glanced at me and demanded, "C'mon you [curse] guys tell me what the hell is going on and what is in that water bag. C'mon, let me look!" He jumped up on the bench, made room for himself but was too short to see even when he pulled down hard and strained his neck. My partner got a small wooden box to give good sergeant buddy the needed height and he quickly got on it, pulling down as hard as he could and inserting his face as we had.

His reaction was surprisingly swift and decisive: he pulled his head back, let go of the bag and with big eyed expression hopped backwards to the ground, scooted away about fifteen feet, let out a quiet, "ooooooh, oooooooh", and emitted mirth of sorts: a sound between laughter and cackle. At the same time he clasped his hands together, put them between his bent knees, right pivoted a little towards us on his heels and with a slight bend at the small of his back looked like he was going into an upright fetal position. This was a welcome diversion and knowing the bag wasn't going any place or change, I had my full attention on him.

Recovering to normalcy, he faced us and loudly said, "You guys think you're so ( ) smart but you don't know a damn thing. C'mon tell me something. You can't because you don't know anything." We weren't offended because we knew this was just good sergeant buddy's personality and he was not the least bit negatively influenced by The Bag: it meant nothing to him but an opportunity and he gave us welcome relief by diverting our attention.

"What the hell do you mean?", I asked.

"Fraser, how long has everyone been drinking this bad water and how many got sick?" he questioned.

I told him I didn't know exactly but thinking back, bad taste and then tiny hairs, it had to be at least three weeks and as far as I knew, no one got sick.

Letting out a gleeful yowl and emphatically saying, "See, you don't know or understand a damn thing!"

He leaned just a little back on his heels with a 'gotcha' expression on his face and looked like a young boy showing pleasure with quiet, excited anticipation, at having just received a little red wagon heaped with catseye marbles and a slingshot laying on top.

Before one of us could say anything he explained, "See, the army can and does do things right. No one got sick because of the little pills they put in the water every time they filled The Bag. Nothing can survive those pills," and smartypants added, "I'm right and you guys know it!". He didn't mention the hairy growth. The man was a good career soldier and quite sensitive to the constant criticisms he heard from the younger set about the army. I understood but didn't care. Having dominance, he couldn't stop and said, "Smartasses, bet you can't tell me what the army did right twice in a row each day!"

One of us asked, a little angry, "Oh yea, what is that?"

"The army threw in two of those pills!" was the sarcastic answer and letting out his 'between a laugh and a cackle happy day noise,' he strutted off. We were over our shocked reaction because good buddy sergeant was fine therapy and taught us a little something again. He knew what he was doing.

When some unsuspecting soul would walk by one of us would say, "Hey, have a look at what's in The Bag" or other similar worded suggestion. This was not planned, hatched or schemed, it just happened and we zapped five or six. Good sergeant buddy had returned after the first two or three and got one all for himself. Oh, this was something else happening. Yes, cruel perhaps, but the theatrics expressed were justification and had to be seen. It might have been a little tough on these guys but it was a lot tougher on us not to express our inner reactions as we watched: too dangerous.

Getting on the bus for the day's-end ride to Bliss the troopers were unusually solemn, sullen for a couple of them is a better description, but I didn't care. I took a seat by a window and pleasantly wondered how we could further exploit what had to be seen to be believed. All we could really do was show the Water Detail and with this is mind the next morning I hurried straight from the bus to the bag. Like a kid getting a big box of really special favorite candy, I turned into the little tunnel but was dismayed at what I saw.

There, hanging in The Bags Place, was a brand new bag bulging all the way to the top. I stopped short, my heart sank, dejectedly got to the spout and let a little water splash over my left hand. It was iced cold: this telling me that the change was made perhaps an hour earlier and also that someone informed: I felt cheated.

Well, we didn't have hardly any of the good guys stop by for their morning hits before starting work or going for coffee in the mess hall. What a sorry change in life this was and as I recall, it was not long before the new water bag was moved to someplace else. Yes, it was over.


I have often wondered how those little rascals got into The Bag and have sympathy for their plight as their El Dorado turned to tragedy. Perhaps they came by every night and finally found an opening to squeeze through. Years later, watching a tv documentary about Norvicus Norvicus, (the brown Norway rat which is called a sewer rat in the city and a barn rat on the farm), I was surprised to see how a large adult could slip through a hole about the size of a nickel and immediately figured that our desert kangaroo rats are really not rats: I think they are more of some kind of a clean living mouse with big back legs.

It was suggested, and thought by some, that I had placed the * 'Roo Rats in The Bag.' Absolutely not so: I too was drinking The Bag's water and have you ever tried to catch a 'Roo Rat'? It took all day but I did catch two hand sized lizards, including tail, that I used for "Roach Control" in our two and 1/2 room apartment on Rio Grand in El Paso. One was used in our living quarters and the other in the 'share the bath' facility with the dwellers of two other apartments. At first, my wife was resistant as she remembered my Carrizozo pets, a bat, a baby rabbit and a kitten. I was given one week and she was proud of me: worked out real good.

  • * - OrGE -- means Oro Grande East Camp and is pronounced "Orgy"
  • - 'Roo Rats -- self explanatory and composite of a new type of ORR - being those who partook of The Bag in it's prime: now honored as "Orgy Roo Rats"
  • also - Original ORR - Oscura Range Rodent from Oscura Range Camp, self explanatory
  • - (ORR)2 -- that very rare individual, such as myself, who earned the distinction at both ORC and Orgy.
  • - HORR -- a person who is complimented to be an Honorary ORR of either camp, but never from both or if that person has less than two stripes, all specialists qualify: this is pronounced as you wish.


(Copyright by Kenneth Pratt Fraser)


Jim Hedlund's Story

Jim Hedlund's Story


The following story is used with permission its author Jim Hedlund, (now deceased). His son is Eric J. Hedlund. The story appears on pages 84 through 88 of "The Malpais Missiles" and is used with the kind permission of the book's publisher J. P. Moore


OSCURA RANGE CAMP

Jim Hedlund knows a lot about RCATS. He tracked them with an M-33 radar from Oscura Range Camp in 1956. The camp at 0scura was small, maybe 50 men, max. Not only did they fly the RCATS for Red Canyon, but for McGregor Range and units at WSPG, including Board Number 4's Nike Ajax site. Oscura was a very busy place. If you think living at Oscura was better than Red Canyon, well, I'll let Jim tell you about it:

"In January of 1956 I graduated from Radar School at Fort Bliss, Texas as a PFC. I was an M-33 Fire Control Radar Operator. When I looked at the new postings, men were being sent to the Far East, Europe, and other great places. I was assigned to the First Guided Missile Brigade at Fort Bliss. Not what I had in mind. When I reported for duty I was told I was to be sent to Oscura Range Camp at White Sands Proving Ground, New Mexico. Things were getting worse."

"In the middle of the night they put me and two other lost souls in the back of a truck and we headed north into the great unknown. After hours of highway driving we turned off onto a rough gravel road. Soon we stopped and the driver called back "This is it". We climbed out with our gear and the truck took off, leaving us in the middle of nowhere. It was snowing and the wind was howling. A bare light swinging in the wind showed a dim outline of a few wooden buildings. A figure came out of the gloom and asked "Are you the new guys?" We were home."

"After a restless night's sleep, I awoke and looked out the window at my new world. I saw nothing, just a flat barren landscape that went on forever. One of the sergeants walking by said 'You'll get used to it'. 'Right', I said, but I didn't think so."

"0scura Range Camp was a small cluster of old wooden buildings and two M-33 radar units. There were low mountain ranges on the horizon to the east and west. There were also rattlesnakes, tarantulas, buzzards, coyotes, a blazing sun and a wind that never stopped blowing. Near the camp was a lava flow from an extinct volcano. Nice touch."

"The unit I was in was Radio Control Aerial Target, RCAT for short. We flew drone target planes over Red Canyon. There, Nike Ajax missile units were brought in from all over the country for one week of firing each. Twelve Nikes were fired a week."

"The drone plane was propeller driven with about a twelve foot wingspan. It had a parachute that could be deployed for recovery. Sometime after I left White Sands they developed a jet drone that could fly much faster. It flew so well they modified it with radar and a warhead and called it a Cruise Missile."

"Our unit was in three sections; Radar, Launch, and Recovery. The launch was done on a circular track. The drone sat on a wheeled rack attached to a cable anchored in the middle of the track. After lift-off speed was achieved the drone would take off. If there was a malfunction the drone would go cart-wheeling across the desert, much to the amusement of the radar crew watching from the radar van."

"After the drone was airborne the radar unit would lock-on with its tracking radar. A sergeant with a remote control box would fly the drone while watching a plotting board. The drone was flown over Red Canyon where a Nike was fired at it. If the drone was still flying after the missile firing, it would be flown back near 0scura and the chute deployed."

"Then the Recovery Team would load some cold beer in the back of a 5 ton truck and go roaring off through the desert sage brush and try to find it. They were gone most of the day, recovery or not. Most of the drones that were found had been stripped by the locals. I think every ranch in that part of New Mexico had a prop with a clock in the middle hanging over the fireplace."

"On Thursday nights we had night launches. JATO (Jet Assisted Take Off) rockets were used to get the drone airborne. JATO bottles were used because they were so reliable. Launching from the tethered track cart at night would have been very tricky. The only reason we didn't use JATO bottles on all launches was they were expensive. I got to see one Nike Ajax launch at Red Canyon. I've never seen anything move so fast from a dead start. An awesome sight."

"The M-33 radar unit we used had very advanced technology for the time. As a radar instructor at Fort Bliss told us, 'This unit was designed by Geniuses to be operated by Idiots. You, Gentlemen, are the Idiots.' It was a self- contained mobile van with a track antenna on the roof and a surveillance antenna set up off to the side. The unit was powered by a gasoline fueled generator. There was a crew of six. On some occasions we would have two RCATS in the air at the same time, each tracked by one of our two radars."

"Being a radar operator is easy duty. A soft chair to sit in and lots of knobs to play with, sort of like an early video game. Of course, in a war, the first thing the enemy does is bomb the radar sites. So there is a down side to it. Military life isn't so bad, if you manage to get in between wars."

"We did pick up some strange things on our radar in the skies over White Sands. Mostly, the unidentified targets were angels, electronic malfunctions. But sometimes we had hard targets that both radar units saw. The surveillance radar showed them but we could never lock-on with the track radar. In the barracks there was much discussion about UFOs, theories from spy planes to spaceships from Mars. We were told just to forget about it. At White Sands you learned not to ask too many questions."

"One afternoon, looking off to the south, it looked like there was a cliff coming. 'Sandstorm!' someone yelled and we all ran to the barracks and closed all doors and windows. Within a few minutes it was dark as night outside. Even with everything closed and the lights on, the dust inside made it almost impossible to see from one end of the barracks to the other. Yes, Virginia, there is a Hell, and we were in it."

"I also remember one afternoon when a busload of VIPs was heading back to the airstrip near 0scura and a sandstorm came up. They took the group to our Mess Hall to wait out the storm. We had an RCAT in the air and the sergeant who was controlling it was trying to bring it back from Red Canyon. He waited too long to pop the chute and the drone buzzed the camp, low, fast, and very loudly. As the VIPs ducked for cover under the Mess tables, our commanding officer grinned sheepishly and said, 'It's okay! It's only an RCAT coming home.' "

"There were a lot of VIPs flown into 0scura landing strip, most of them going to Red Canyon for the standard tour. Our CO had standing orders that when a plane landed we were to hide somewhere until the VIPs left the camp. We were real Desert Rats, and our military appearance left something to be desired."

"One weekend someone asked me to drive with him up to the mountains. Being from Minnesota and having never seen a mountain up close, I thought they were just big piles of rocks. But I went along just to get away from 0scura. We drove to Lincoln, Ruidoso and Cloudcroft. I couldn't believe it. Trees, grass and rivers. Snow on the peaks, what an incredible change from the desert. I found there was more to New Mexico than what I had seen."

"Then back to reality. The Spanish used to say when crossing this area and you ran out of water you better get out your beads and start praying because it's all over."

"The water at 0scura was too alkaline to use, so the Army bought water from a rancher in Mockingbird Gap. One weekend the driver of the water truck asked me if I wanted to ride along. His name was 'Red', a kid about my age. The rancher asked us in for coffee and told us many stories about the area."

"On our way back to camp, Red told me he was going to marry a local girl from Carrizozo. He also told me he had to be careful driving the water truck. It was old, from W.W.II, and there were no baffles to keep the water from shifting side to side, and these roads are not good."

"About a month after my trip with Red, I had a weekend pass to Juarez, Mexico. Coming back I found the camp very quiet. Something was very wrong. Red had been killed coming back from Mockingbird Gap in his water truck. His truck had rolled over on a curve. He had just been married. The ambulance from 0scura going to the scene with a driver and a Medic turned over on another curve, sending both to the hospital It had been a tragic day at the camp."

"There was a bus that ran from Red Canyon to El Paso for those who had passes. It would stop in front of the Atomic Bar at the end of our range road to pick up us desert rats. Coming back, it would drop us off in the same place. I was usually alone, and since it was late at night and no traffic to the camp, I would just find an abandoned car in the desert to sleep in and catch a ride in the morning."

"One night I decided to walk the ten miles to camp. Walking through the desert in the middle of the night can be a spooky experience. I'm not a very religious person. I was expelled from Sunday School when I was five years old for asking too many questions, and have had a dim view of organized religion ever since. But, walking along that range road in the darkness, I didn't feel like I was alone. It was a comforting feeling."

"One of the more interesting people at 0scura was Smitty, who worked in the motor pool. He had been in the army since 1936 and was still a Spec 3. Smitty had a problem keeping his stripes. He started his career in the Cavalry, riding patrols along the Mexican border. Once he pulled an old campaign hat out of his footlocker and there was a bullet hole through the top from a shot by a Mexican bandit. Smitty also showed me a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts from fighting in Germany in W.W.II. He did get in some trouble after the war for being AWOL for thirteen days, drinking with Russian soldiers in East Germany."

"I did spend one interesting evening with Smitty in Juarez. He managed to get us both arrested by the Juarez Police for an altercation with one of the locals. It was a small thing but Smitty turned it into a major event. As we were being walked down the street to Police Headquarters, Smitty turned and hit the police officer, sending him sprawling, and he yelled 'RUN!' I'm usually pretty slow talking and slow walking, but I was stepping out quite smartly that night. The Juarez City Police have a nasty habit of putting large holes in people with their 45's. When the '0scura Olympic Running Team', huffing and puffing, made it across the bridge to El Paso, I did mention to Smitty that clear thinking was not his long suit. Laughing, he said, 'I know, but we did have one hell of a night.' I couldn't argue with that."

"Smitty also had three wives. One in Germany, one in New Jersey and a new one in Juarez. He collected wives like other people collect china vases. One evening he came to me looking very sad. His wife in New Jersey had divorced him. He was down to two. All in all, Smitty was a good buddy and a good soldier. But when I went to Juarez from then on, I went alone. A lot less trouble."

"One evening four of us decided to drive down to El Paso. One of us was lucky enough to have a car. On the way we stopped in Tularosa for a beer. It was a great old-west bar with a high tin ceiling and a long mahogany bar. Many Indians were at the bar and a good contingent of Hispanics were at the tables in the corner. The music was loud and the beer was flowing. I was watching two Hispanics playing pool when an older gentleman came wobbling up to them, a little too much to drink. He asked the whereabouts of someone that neither had seen. When asked why he wanted to see him, he said 'Because I'm going to kill him.' Then he reached into his baggy shirt and took out the biggest handgun I've ever seen. He stuck the gun back in his shirt and went out the door. I asked the bartender if someone should do something. He said, 'No, it's just the whiskey talking. Nothing will happen, he has no bullets.' The locals know each other pretty well."

"It was getting way too noisy at the bar, so I went and sat along the wall with two Indians, Charlie and Lee. They were Mescalero Apaches. Charlie was a former rodeo rider, too beat up to ride anymore. Lee was an Air Force veteran of W.W.II, a waist gunner on a B-17. He lifted his shirt and showed me the scars from flak he received on a mission over Germany. They told me about old Indian drawings on rocks east of Three Rivers. Not many white people knew they were there."

"About this time an altercation broke out between the Hispanics and Indians. First, words were exchanged. Then beer bottles. Then chairs. Charlie, Lee and I just stayed sitting by the wall. Best not to get involved in these things. It's not like the movies, a guy could get seriously injured. Soon we could hear the sirens coming. The State Police and Sheriff's deputies came in, clubbed down a few of the more enthusiastic participants, and got things more-or-less under control. The Police then tried to find out who started the whole thing. After a lot of yelling and finger pointing, the Police decided it was the four of us from 0scura. They escorted us to the city limits and told us never to stop in Tularosa again. Instead of going to El Paso, we went back to camp. You can only have so much fun in one evening."

"Later I went east of Three Rivers and saw the Indian drawings on the rocks. I see that now it is the Three Rivers Petroglyph National Recreation Site. The white people found it. I hope Charlie and Lee are doing all right. They were nice people."

"Transportation out in the boondocks is always a problem. One of the other radar operators and I decided to pool our money and buy a used car. We bought a 1948 Chevy from an Air Force widow in El Paso. Her husband had been killed in a B-47 bomber crash in Florida."

"The first night we had the car we drove into Carrizozo for a beer. Coming out of the bar we found our car was gone. We stopped a police officer and told him our car was stolen. 'Is it a green '48 Chevy?' he asked. 'Yes, that's it! You've found it?' we shouted. 'We impounded it!' he growled. The license plates were three years old."

"We went before the Judge in Carrizozo. He said the fines, towing and storage would be $248.00. We told him our income was only $84.00 a month. He peered over his glasses at us a minute and said the fines were reduced to $10.00. May that Judge live 100 years and nothing but good things happen to him!"

"In August 1956 I was transferred to Japan. I didn't want to leave White Sands. So many contrasts; crawling snakes and soaring eagles. A blazing sun and cool starlit nights. Weapons of war and gentle Indians. Love, marriage, hope and death in the afternoon."

"When I remember back to 0scura Range Camp and the rather harsh conditions there, I think of my Dad and the other men in the Pacific in W.W.II. They endured the endurable in the mud and the blood thousands of miles away from their homes and families. For me and the others at White Sands it was really little more than a walk in the sun."

"I spent 10 months in Japan as a Fire Control Radar Operator in a 120 MM gun battery near Tokyo. Returning to Minneapolis as a 19 year old veteran, I married, had three children and worked in a RCA warehouse for 36 years."

"In 1994, my wife, Lynn, and I moved to the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, north of Questa, New Mexico. We are now full time artists, showing our work in Questa and Taos. Our first night back in New Mexico the wind was blowing, the coyotes were howling, there were Indians beating drums in the mountains and a bear was trying to get in the back door. I was home again."

Jim Hedlund

August 6, 2002

Hello, Ed,

It was upsetting to learn of Jim Hedlunds passing on and ask if you would feature his story, himself, as a commemorative to his good person.
I spoke with him a couple of times during the reunion and was attracted by his sincerety and gentle manner. ...

Thank you.

Ken Fraser.


BOARDWALK TUSSLE

BOARDWALK TUSSLE


by Ken Fraser
(Oscura Range Camp, probably Nov, '57)

It had drizzle rained for the last couple of days, and this day's weather was damp with a sharp chill in the air and a dark overcast sky. The ground had maybe two inches of brownish muck which stuck to your boots, layer after layer, until it got so thick and heavy that to walk you would have to rock a little side to side with each step and lift your feet a bit straight kneed. After a short time the moisture would soak through and your feet would become damp, cold, and most uncomfortable. The only thing to do was trip to the barracks, put on the clean dry pair of boots with socks and then walk outside back into the muck. It didn't take long to mess up the second pair and you soon ran out of dry socks. So, to hell with it: save the dry boots and socks for tomorrow, just walk around with cold feet and carry a stick in a pocket to peel off the muck much the same as the skin on a ripe tangerine. Right after doing this your feet and legs felt real light, and occasionally you would see some guy, stick in hand, bouncing around like a kid wearing brand new running shoes. When about half an inch would stick and right beneath where you stepped there was a dusty dry spot, the contrast similar to a debark on a tree, you knew the next day the ground would be dry.

This made it very difficult not to have dirty dusty floors in the barracks and more so for the radar techs. They had to also keep their van floors clean and as dust free as possible which was a constant hard to do chore.

Frustrating. The poor living facilities, the isolation and boredom, the weather, the muck, the dirt and dust, the hours, the noise, personal tensions, the dangers, the warm beer - when you could get it:

Depressing.

So, from somewhere, came raw wooden sidewalks: at the most, two feet wide with six inch high sides and the walk on part was made from 3/4 x 8 inch boards nailed on edge to edge so there were no gaps. These sidewalks bridged from the barracks to the operations area, T'd across the front of the vans, went straight to the latrine from each of the four barracks east door, and were very practical: some of us, namely the Launch Crew, the Target Techies and we two Generator Sectioners had no choice when it came to our jobs as we had to truck in the muck. Humorous was when two dudes would be walking on the walk in opposite directions and one would have to step off or turn hard sideways to give room for the other. Stepping off meant messing shiny dry boots so sideways was pecking order acceptable. The fat ones were great fun: rank, or turf domination, what's the difference?

Naturally, the worst area of this stuff was on the west side of the barracks and out into the work sections mentioned above. When it was still mucky west of the barracks, the mess hall, Det 6 side wouldn't be that bad.

What made this more easily acceptable for us *ORRs is that we were part of the muck anyway, normally soaked with diesel fuel and gasoline mixed with the regular greasy work dirt, so we didn't have the bother of trying to stay neat and spiffy. I got tired of having a clean set of fatigues messed up with one day's work so I would simply wear the same pants and shirt till it got too hard to put them back after my break. Sometimes, they just stayed on for two days plus. I would keep them in my wall locker and when I opened the door, it smelt like an old fashioned four bay gas station and keeping them in my foot locker made everything stink for a week. A time or two a couple of the other guys made me stash them outside so I flopped them up onto the roof, with the legs and arms hanging down, over the window by my bunk. Another time I went into a radar van for a cigarette break, sat in the chair on the door side of the consol and could hear the techies mumbling their job on the other side. As I was about to strike the paper match one of them came fast around the consol, knocked the matches from my hand, grabbed me and literally threw me out the open door as he yelled, "Fraser, you crazy sob, I could smell you! One of these days you're going to catch on fire, burn up or just explode and you aren't going to do it in my van." He was pissed. He slammed and latched the door and I thought it best not to go back in for my matches: can always bum a light.

Anyway, on this lousy afternoon, myself and four grungy others were standing in the muck near the T intersection of the boardwalk, joshing, smiling, just in a good mood and enjoying each others good company. We were having a nice time when up came Herc, our lovable part shepherd camp dog. He trotted up to us, wagging his tail, we said hello back and he tried to identify us by sniffing. Frustrated, he walked back a few paces, looked up at our faces, recognized who he was looking for and made his approach. He was sucking up to the guy that fed him the best treats of the day. No one owned Hercules.

As we pleasured, up strutted on the boardwalk an RCAT truckdriver, called Gluffs, who was known to sometimes have an attitude and might look down on others that didn't meet his high standards. He was six feet, around 190 lbs, athletic, strong, had little fear and would fight if that's what someone wanted: as usual, his fatigues and boots were inspection ready. They should be: all he did was a sit on his ass driving a big flatbed semi truck from Ft Bliss to the range camps. He would haul targets and supplies out, junk back in and I never, ever, saw the prima donna load or unload a damn thing. He always stood around and gave exalted instruction as to how to properly do these chores. That was it. Good hours, took breaks almost any time, no guard duty, KP, or nasty stuff: came and went driving that nice big truck up and down highway 54 and all over the place: almost his own boss.

Oh, I wished I had his job.

The mood neutralized as Gluffs stopped, hautily glanced at us, and stiff back posturing as if he were a conductor of the New York Philharmonic, sans little stick, he first half raised his partially bowed right arm, pretended to flick off some imaginary dirt and then repeated the drama with his left arm. Almost with a sigh, he quietly stated to no one in particular, "I think I'll go to the mess hall and have a cup of coffee." For no reason that I can remember, maybe I said something he didn't like, he turned and contemptuously pretended to wipe from his hands imaginary filth of some sort, all over and up and down my chest.

Stunned at this insult, I became enraged, swiftly bent down and with one smooth very fast motion, scooped two good handfuls of muck, swung them high up and forward like an Olympic butterfly swimmer and kersplut, slapped that muck on his chest and rubbed it around. When I hit his chest it felt like a big telephone pole and I knew I had made another mistake, but it was too late. I grabbed as much shirt with each hand as I could and hung on!

During this second or two, his face went from great surprise to mad-dog mean, he thump grabbed a bunch of my shirt from around the upper bod area and started to lift me up onto the boardwalk. I pulled back and down as hard as I could but just started levitating, so I then pushed up really hard and he went backwards, almost falling while pulling me with him at the same time. Recovering very quickly he attacked again by pushing real hard and I fell back, pulling and trying to make him loose his balance. It worked, and he had a look of horror on his face seeing all that muck as he started down to my level. We then went side to side and back and forth and side to side till I was getting out of breath. Also, I was so damn scared and didn't know how to get out of this. I couldn't let go because I knew he would catch me and kick my ass real good. I looked around and didn't see anyone. Where was everybody? Oh gosh, if I did let go I thought I would head for the launch area and hopefully the launch crew would intervene. They were a rough, strong bunch of guys who could walk through walls and my good buddies. (?)

This seemed to last forever and both of us, out of breath, let go at the same time. Huffing and puffing, I backed up, Gluffs headed for the mess hall and I was so glad to end this fearsome agony.

Going over to my generators, I kept looking over my shoulder hoping he wasn't coming back for seconds. When I got there, I sort of skulked around, wanting to stay out of sight but not wanting to be too obvious about it. Hey, saving face is important! After an hour or so I figured to hell with it but didn't realize this was not over for this day.

Around 8 pm I was lounging on my bunk and in walks a guy I'd seen around and didn't know anything about. He was on the short, stocky side, had a large face and wasn't very bright. He looked it, too. I wondered what he was doing in my barracks and he walked up and started to talk: he was Gluffs' messenger boy, so let's call him Scatz because I can't remember his name. The conversation went very close to this.

"Gluffs wants to talk to you," he deadpanned.

Concerned, I replied, "I don't want to talk to him."

Sensing my lack of confidence, he said, "You better go see him."

"I'm not going to," I emphasized.

"What's the matter, scared"? He smartassed.

I looked at this jerk and realized he wasn't going to go away. He was too dumb to understand anything and I started to lose my patience.

"No, I'm not scared," I lied, and added, "I just don't care to have anything to do with Gluffs."

He smirked and told me, "If you don't go to see Gluffs, Gluff''s coming here to see you."

I know others nearby could hear all of this but they were too busy doing nothings to get distracted. I realized I had zero choice and accepted the challenge.

With false nonchalance, I asked, "Where is he?".

"Waiting for you in Sgt Feekses supply building," he answered and asked, "when will you be there?"

I was getting upset with Scatz.

Resigned, accepting that this situation could get worse, I stated, "In about half an hour."

Scatz, a smirk on his dummy face, turned and sauntered out. Sitting back, accepting that I was probably going to get thumped, I tried to conjure up what I could say to lessen the danger. Not much conjured and thinking to hell with it I put on my boots and resolutely headed for Sgt Feekses domain.

The supply building was a large Butler type with a lot of glass around one corner and about 10 ft inside the door was a short, so to speak, customer counter. On the right wall were shelves with very little of anything and in the left rear corner was Feekses desk at which he sat, just like a fat toad. A single green porcelaned light fixture hung down from the ceiling in the center of the maybe 25 by 25 foot room and this caused contrasting areas of low light and dark shadow. There were various boxes and other items, staged in the right places, to give an impression of erratic necessity. In an open area stood menacing Gluffs and close by Gluffs left side, was stupid Scatz with a really moronic, toothy grin on his roundy face.

Being about five feet inside the door I knew I could skip out real quick and because it was a very dark night could easily lose anyone chasing me. I looked carefully around and out of the dark windows to see if there was anyone else getting involved in this, saw no one, and turned my attention to the scene in front. This could not be real.

Again, this is close to the conversation that ensued.

Gluffs loudly said, "So you think you're a smartass, Fraser, can you do this?"

He turned slightly towards Scatz who stiffened and with the same moronic look on his dummy face started to fall to his right. Gluffs,bending from the waist, reached down and grabbed Scatz right leg with his left hand, right arm with his right hand and without effort, swung Scatz straight up over his head and held him there, rock steady. I thought, 'Oh damn, that could be me before the toss".

Rapidly pumping board like goofy, grinning proud as punch Scatz up and down, Gluffs demanded, "C'mon Fraser, try to do this you sob," and added, "bet you can't!"

I said something like I didn't want to try and made up a couple of other weak excuses and was very uncomfortable.

Scatz bent his left arm, placed that palm alongside his face, sort of like supporting his head in reverse, and kept grinning: Feekses just stayed beady eyed toady and Gluffs was glowering. With them performing each his part, the setting of this scene with its clutter and boxes, the lone light bulb causing dark shadows and the large black windows caused me to think ,'this is like getting into the Twilight Zone'.

I had to get out of there before some rubbed off.

Turning very quickly I rushed out the door and making a hard right broke into a fast trot to and around the end of the barracks and into the bright area of one of the camp lights, and slowed to a stroll.

Gluffs had proved his point and saved face, Scatz had fun and Feekses, we didn't like each other, did his gloat. The incident had come to it's end.

As I took my time, I thought half the guys at ORC were dingy, and the other half thought I was.

Who was right?


*ORRs - Oscura Range Rodents: a wonderful group of rough, dedicated young men who did their difficult duty without complaint. It was more difficult for some, than for others.


SNAPSHOT

SNAPSHOT


by Ken Fraser
(Oscura Range Camp, Fall, '57)

A cool weekend afternoon, Rollins, (I forget his first name), Dave Fullam and myself were lounging in our barracks hut when, deciding to take some photos, I moved to the other side of the barracks for a more desirable field of view.

While adjusting for available light and framing a view of Rollin's area, he approached and told me very nastily that I could not take his picture. He was just part of the scene and could have told me in a polite manner: I was offended and thought, ' ( ) him , I'll get one anyway!'

Waiting till he settled down and sitting on his bunk with his back to me, I framed him, focused, and at the moment of click he looked back over his left shoulder; really upset! His bunk was on the same side as mine, maybe four away and he stood up, turned into the aisle and proceeded to approach myself.

I was scared and thought, 'ooh oh!'.

Quickly moving to and putting my rump firmly on the angle iron frame of my bunk, placing my camera under my pillow, straightening and stiffing my back, head up, shoulders back, chest out, with locked elbows my hands firmly grasping and pushing down on my slightly bent back knees; my feet were flat on fused with the floor!

I looked at his face, he was about six feet away, and saw an expression of overconfidence with touch of contempt! Rollins, a quiet keep to himself radar tech, was around six feet tall and over 200 lbs, a bit barrel like and not much fat. He was making exaggerated body motions; long and wide strides, arms hanging out as if muscle bound, (he did have big arms), chest and belly sort of puffed and a total swaggering attitude of , "I'm going to show this guy!"

Fear and anxiety turned into resentment because of his threatening performance and what he might do, causing me to think, 'Wait a minute, what the hell did I do to warrant this behavior? We could talk about the photo, I would apologize, whatever! He's not pissed; just found an excuse to screw with me! Fuggim!' The resentment grew and turned to nervous anticipation as he looked mean-eyed at me and was quickly getting closer. He didn't glance at my pillow and I was really glad he wasn't going to try to screw with my camera!

When he arrived, I took and held a deep breath, stiffened my whole bod and glancing up saw the same overconfident expression but now with a smirk of pleasure. He stood close, feet wide, menacing, raised his arms high and after brief dramatic moment with all of his strength thumped down on and strongly grabbed my shoulders. This energy went through myself and then bunk without effect and as it transferred into the floor there was an audible sound.

I was rock!

Instantly, I shot straight up, my arms knocking his aside and at the same time latching my legs around his torso, locking my right arm around his neck, with my left hand, (I'm left handed), our faces inches apart, I grabbed a fistful of upper lip and nose and proceeded to forcefully push in and up while twisting clockwise.

I was ripping face!

Fearfully amazed, he snapped backwards into the aisle a few short steps, stumbled a couple more as he lost his balance and oh golly, looking over his right shoulder was I scared that we might go down with me on the bottom. He recovered and desperately thumped, grabbed, tugged, pushed and flailed but I held on and twisted as hard as I could. Somehow, very quickly, I was riding high on his back; my left arm over his left shoulder, my right under his right arm, each hand grabbing as best it could and my legs hard trying to hold on because he was fast twirling to the left. I didn't dare let him reel me loose because I knew if he did and got a hold of me he would rip much more than part of my face!

We were spinning so damned fast my legs slipped off, I was losing my arm holds and feeling a hard noisy blow against my outside right foot and looking over my right shoulder, I saw that my bod and legs, with feet toes down, were straight out horizontal! There was a loud crash! Damn! On the next spin I saw some wall lockers and a bunk tumbled together from the blow of my foot. I was glad I had my boots on and oh, so scared!

Rollins slowed and while he was changing direction I re-grabbed my leg and arm holds, pulling high and close. He looked hard over his right shoulder, our wide eyed faces close together and I was comforted by the expression on his!

He was just as scared as I!

As we started clockwise, Dave Fullam moved in and loudly said, "That's enough!".

I very gladly let go, (what a ride), and went to my area as Rollins went to his.

I stood the wall lockers back up, straightened a couple of bunks and lay on mine, relieved. I was so glad he didn't make it a fist fight and knew if we got outside, he would never catch me.

We never mentioned this incident to each other, it meant nothing and was forgotten about as, 'one of those things'.

note: Rollin's is a name change

Full copyright by Kenneth P Fraser.


RCAT Truckdriver

RCAT Truckdriver


by Ralph Hatzenbeler
(Oscura Range Camp)

Sunday morning, early March at Oscura Range Camp, White Sands Proving Ground, Southern New Mexico, I was sitting in the mess hall, trying to put down breakfast after a night at the Atomic Bar. Andy comes in sits next to me and was not sure if he was with me last night.

I said, "Andy lets you and I grab a truck and go out on the range and just fool around, I'm broke, don't want to go back to Bliss and laying around the barracks is not my way of spending a Sunday. The range is clear, they don't plan on putting up any targets, so lets you and I go out there."

Andy replies, "Sounds great, lets do it!".

I told two guys next to us, can't remember their names, "Got room for two more."

One of them says,"Sure do, lets go ".

Went over to the motor pool, grabbed a duce, filled it up with gas and told the Sergeant we wanted to go out and look for targets. "Sounds great," he said, "Go for it!"

The four of us got in and headed West, stayed on the main road until camp was out of site and then off into the sagebrush. Not looking for targets, if we run in to one we'll pick it up, just out here to fool around, we came up to this deep wash, not sure I could make it through it. "Go ahead Hatz, you can do it," so into it we went, when we got to the bottom I buried that duce in sand, and there we sit 25 miles from camp, no water or food and light clothes, and it is still cold in New Mexico in March

The four of us tried for a couple hours to get it out, no way could we get it out. This is about noon.

"Andy," I said, "you and I will start walking, you other guys stay with the truck, we'll be back as soon as we can."

Andy and I started out, not worried about getting lost, we had been out there a hundred times, and we pretty much knew the area. The sun started to set and it was getting cold, I found a candy bar in my field jacket, Andy and I stopped, took a break, we split the bar and talked things over. This is not good, we know we aren't lost. Way off in the distance we can see lights from cars on highway 54. The wind from the North is starting to pick up and the temperature is really starting to drop, Andy doesn't have a jacket, I know he is cold, we take turns at wearing my field jacket, Andy wants to stop and rest.

"We can't Andy," I told him,"got to keep going, if we stop we will be in trouble."

What seemed forever we finely got to the Camera Station. White Sands took pictures of missiles and the impact area, in all the time I spent out there looking for targets, never once did I ever see anyone there, looked at my two dollar watch that I had bought in Mexico, it was 10 pm, I knew we still had 8 to 10 miles to go. We stopped to take a short break, our fingers are numbed by the cold, we got to keep moving. Andy kept telling me how cold he was.

I shouted at him, "Listen!".

In the distance I could hear a motor running. Looked up on this little hill and I could see a pickup sitting there, we walked over to it and there was a MP in there asleep, I tried to open the door, but my hands wouldn't move. No feeling in them, I hit the truck with my arm, next thing I knew Andy and I were down on our knees with a 45 cal. pointed between my eyes. I shouted, "Don't shoot," told him what had happened. He told us we were in luck, his relief was due any minute, and he would take us to Oscura. When we got there we woke up the sergeant and told him what happened, got a wrecker and headed back there, the two guys were cold but they had wrapped up in the chutes we had there and they were OK,


true story Ken delete it if you don't like it......Hatz >>

Hi Ed,

Here's that story from Hatz.
Humorous where he says, "if we stop we'll be in trouble."
Hazard Hatz was bigger and stronger than most, known to be an active, aggressive type with a keen sense of justice which he wouldn't hesitate to administer. He has other exciting stories I hope he'll tell.
Thanks. Ken.


The Sky Filled Up

The Sky Filled Up


by Ken Fraser
(Oscura Range Camp - late summer '57)

On a pleasant, clear blue sky afternoon, I was walking north from Det 6 Motor Vehicle Repair Garage when directly ahead I watched something happen I couldn't believe.

Maybe a mile or two away a dense, dark mass, having a bright flashing core of reddish, yellow and white hues, erupted from the ground and expanded with amazing speed into a huge, boiling black and dark swirling dusty brown cloud, reaching several thousand feet. Spewing west from the bottom of this awesome sight were many large and small solid pieces and shards that lost their velocity after scattering perhaps 1/4 of a mile. Prominent, and continuing from these was a large object, flying very level, fast, and perhaps 50 feet over the boonies! It did this for maybe a mile, hit the ground causing a small dusty cloud with thrown pieces of mesquite and chunks of ground. It hit again in a short distance, bounced almost straight up and dropped out of sight. I thought, 'this is like a flat rock skipping across a pond!' At the same time I watched a misty shock wave race across the desert floor, climb slightly into the mountains on the west side of the valley and dissipate! I looked back at the cloud: it was getting larger and being so huge I can only estimate it's size by saying the sky filled up. Though still churning and moving, after six to eight seconds it stopped expanding.

A bright white delta winged F102, looking like a toy, circled this cloud several times, swooped close to the ground and after a couple of more passes like this it headed south. I searched the sky, wishing to see parachutes because I thought a large, very fast aircraft had crashed and the crew might have been able to bail out. Not seeing any I continued to look, from horizon to straight up and all around. None! I was upset! Turning around, I saw GIs running towards parked vehicles and I did the same. Sgt Waller, ORCs fire fighter NCO, ordered, "Fraser, get on the bus!". With him and others I did so and the driver took off!

As we headed for the crash I noticed that the cloud was faint and in a short time the air was clear. We were on what I believe to be the same trail that goes to the firing range and I had to firmly grab the bar on the seat in front of me to keep from being thrown to the floor. The driver stopped near where he thought the crash might be and we spilled out; each running in his own direction! After some minutes of this frantic group motion we milled around, and I said to Sgt Waller that we didn't know where we were so how could we find anything! He was distressed and said we had to keep looking! I mentioned we weren't organized and that there could not be any survivors. Sgt Waller got onto me, exclaiming, "there is always a chance!" Chewing me out, he told me, "As long as there is a chance we will keep looking!"

Everyone was upset!

Thinking back, I don't remember feeling the shock wave or hearing any sound and I did not experience any fear. The large object must have been the engine, and if the direction of the crash had been towards ORC, and location close, we would have been severely damaged by this debris!

Rumor said that the crashed aircraft was a top secret experimental "cruise missile": internally radar controlled, terrain following, that left White Sands, flew to a Nevada range, failed while returning and that the F102 was a chase plane: other rumor said, "Not so! It took off from a Nevada range, Their fault!"

We never learned anything about what this was.


E-mail from J.P. Moore to Ken Fraser
Ken.......you gotta quit chewing on them smoked peyote buttons!

and ...
Hey there, JP
Just IM'd a talk with RCAT Range Rodent Hazard Hatz and he remembers seeing a boonie burn area about 100 yards wide and 3 to 400 long where the, get this, tnt loaded Bomarc augured in. That would make a really big cloud. As he can best recall, Hatz is going to e-mail me his memory of this.
Where do you stash those smoked peyote buttons? {}:-)

Be in touch, Ken.


TARGET COMING IN

TARGET COMING IN


by Ken Fraser
(Oscura Range Camp - fall '57)

On selected Thursday nights during nice weather, VIP's, high ranking military with what civilians from who knows where would show up for the nights' shoot.

The Gl's calmly, seriously doing their jobs: the radar vans quietly humming - a soft glow leaning through their open doors; generators rumbling and most of all, the roaring targets being blasted off the launch rail by luminous, piercing screaming JATOs was colorful and impressive! Hearing from inside a radar van the shout, "Missile Fired" or "Missile Away", and looking north to Red Canyon, you could barely see the Ajax boosters' short lived flare as it put the missile to speed and then east, 15 to 20 thousand feet high, maybe 15 miles away and after long seconds, would be seen the distant small flash of the missile burst. Soon, a muffled 'kpow' would arrive and a radar tech would exclaim, "Target hit" or "Target going down".

Usually the Target Controller would stroll out to relax, having just spent maybe the last two hours 'flying' the target at correct altitude and on correct miles long oval shaped course with his radio control box: he did this by intensely watching the radar's tracking pens slowly scribe the target's position along with vertical and horizontal movements on paper charts and if the target was missed he had to stay and 'fly' it back. This was the latest hi-tech missile air defense system in live, efficient, impressive operational mode and I loved it, especially at night.

However.

Although understanding the necessary positive image needing to be made on the influential military and civilian VIP's, we didn't appreciate the controllers bringing the missed targets back in so close so that the target's chute could be heard to pop and the target thumping to ground. Normally at night they would be brought back until the engine could be heard, chute popped and the target easily recovered the next day. Occasionally, for some reason, when the targets got too close the controllers would lose some radio control or lose it altogether, (oh, oh) It was my four hour turn to rest while my generator good buddy, Robert E Gottschal, did his turn babysitting our responsibilities. I was laying on my bunk in my skivvies with three pair of issue cushysoled socks on: far more comfortable than boots and necessary in case of an emergency. Operations were at full bore! A new group of targets was being JATO launched and low fuel targets were being brought in: the two light bulbs hanging from the ceiling were turned on and hearing with understanding all of this activity, I wasn't relaxed.

Suddenly, charging fast through the west door came a very frightened GI without cap yelling. "Target Coming In. Target Coming In,!". He was nearing the foot of my bunk when my feet hit the floor and I heard the loud engine and prop of an RCAT close by and very rapidly getting closer.

As he passed by, I knew by the noise, now being just outside the west wall that the target was going to crash into where we were! Spontaneously, I envisioned the wall exploding inward as with the target in a monstrous, lethal fiery burst of large debris.

I was terrified!!

In the seconds before I reached the east door, I heard the RCAT's parachute pop, engine stop and with 'kthumped,' land.

We were safe!

Exiting the east door, quickly walking to the south and around the barracks next to ours I saw the target, maybe thirty feet from our barracks with cargo chute blossomed limp on the ground: the fuselage was in a straight line, dead center with the door and for but less than a second would have bust through, entering with the engine and prop live.

Already near the target was an attractive well dressed young woman with an 'isn't this exciting look on her face'. Anger replacing my fear, I loudly and profanely expressed my opinions about what had just happened and all of the persons connected. A growing group of spectators gathered and a buddy of mine whispered in my right ear , "Ken, shut your (curse, curse) mouth". As I paused and took a deep breath for more, someone quietly, frigidly warned into my left ear, "You're not (cuss, curse, curse) dressed and get into the (obscenity) barracks"!

The left ear message frightened me, and now very embarrassed by my garb, looking straight ahead, with cushy sole sox on my feet and bow legs bare beneath my boxers, I hustled all 135 lbs into my barracks and was glad to be out of sight. I went to my locker and hurriedly put on a pair of fatigue pants knowing I was in for it again: flopped onto my bunk and still embarrassed put a spare pillow over my face hoping nobody came in to chew on my ass.

One of the witnesses told me the next day that the target suddenly appeared from the darkness, was flying very fast with a slight nose down angle and about four feet off the ground when the chute 'popped'. When a target's parachute is deployed the result is lightning quick and dramatic: simultaneously the engine quits and the chute opens with a distinctive "POP" sound, stopping the target. Fun to watch.

I don't remember what happened because of this one.

Oh well.


A Tother Time

A Tother Time


by Ken Fraser
(Oscura Range Camp)

One night, not a Thursday, a target was being brought in and got too close. This happened often because I think the controllers had a private, personal competition to see who could get the closest. It didn't respond to any commands and someone yelled at the controller, "Pop the chute, pop the fuggin chute!!". The poor guy shouted back, "It won't pop! It won't pop!!". By the sound, we knew the target was coming right at us and someone screeched, "Nose down crash the fuggin thing!!". I saw the controller manipulating his fingers and thumbs and he big eyed howled into the night sky, "No response, no response!!".

We heard it was very close and were scared. I thought, 'where the hell do we run?'. Everyone stood watching in the direction of the sound and the target came into view about 40 feet above the ground, flying level and straight, passing right overhead back into the night! I remember how menacing it was, with its' white wings having radar pods on each end, its' blood red fuselage and tail assembly gleaming; all being noisily pulled through the air by a propeller that emphasized danger.

The nco's huddled and worried if the damn thing would crash, or keep going till it reached Carrizozo; the chart showed the target was right on that track: not possible because of the terrain!

What about other civilians? Who could know?

What about ranchers? Who cares?!



e-mail sent to Ken

e-mail to Ken


e-mail sent to Ken Fraser from Hatz

Ken, my time in the army.

I was drafted in Nov. 56, did my basic at fort Ord Ca.We had our choice of what we wanted to do, MP, tanks, cooks or Nike, I picked Nike. Was sent to Fort Bliss and put in a Nike outfit, that was Jan.of 57. I was in that outfit for a month or so, I screwed up on an inspection, and from that day on I pulled every shit Job they had to offer, even pull KP for the Guard, they had me doing lots of KP and guard duty, didn't mind that, at least I was away from those pricks. One night the sargent came up to me and asked if I wanted to go to the Motor pool with the RCAT battery, I told him you bet, anything was better then this chicken shit outfit, so I was sent TDY to the Rcat and in the motor pool. This is about Feb. or so of 57.

We started taking radar vans and other stuff to Oro Grande, never heard of Oscura. Nothing at Oro except a old shack, and that is where I slept when I pulled guard duty up their. I loved it their, about 4:00 in the afternoon everyone went back to Bliss I would stay their along with some other guy, would drive about 6 or 7 miles to get the chow for about 40 or 50 people, and then at night around 5 would go and get dinner for me and another guy, always told them I want food for 5 people, so we had plenty to eat.

I think it was April of 57 they made the Rcats into their own battery, life really got good then we were taking loads to Oro and Oscura, when we got up to Oscura they would keep us their to go out and pick up targets, stay a week or so and then go back to Bliss and get loaded again for Oro or Oscura. I remember once they took us to place that you people called McGreor, all that was their was the foundation for the Mess hall. that had to be Aug or Sept of 57. Shafer,lord his his name just poped out he was from Wyo, He got out and I started driving his truck, and that was full time taking targets and other equip. to Oscura, life was good then, no kp and no guard duty. Still had about 12 or 13 months to go. As far as Oro we launched a few cats but they never shot at them while I was their..Well Ken, after 40 years I tried to put down some of the things I could remember, might be wrong on somethings, but all the dates are pretty close,

Hopes this helps you.
...Hatz


The Corporal

The Corporal


by Ken Fraser

In the fall of '59 I was doing my job in the CQ shack, keeping the records for the generators and air conditioners and was going to take inventory for the winter supplies we had just received: being assigned daily CQ, I spent most of my time in the shack. That was a joke because communications was a WWII handlespinner wired directly to operations center, about 100 yards up the sandy boondocky rise to the new ops pad. We had lots of help, I wasn't needed up there and figured this was ops nco in charge Msgt Priques way of keeping me out of sight, in a known place and easily checked on. Maybe because of kicking his dog in the crotch, helping Pvt Sheets, having fracas with Sfc Ferpes, Stiff Staffs ride, other things and my attitude, he didn't like me. I really didn't like him!

Anyway, in comes Fergy. Fergy is a combat knowing career soldier, quiet, likeable guy maybe 5'7", very thin, fair complexioned, brush-cutted and blue eyed. Glad to see him, as he passed by I said, "Hi, Fergy". He had a strange look on his face, didn't reply, took a couple of jerking steps to the rolled up bunk along the back wall, turned around and fell backwards: his ass hit the springed metal slats just right and he bounced, his shoulders and head landed on the rolled mattress with his legs flopping streight in line. His arms straight along his sides, staring wide-eyed streight up, he let out the deepest, longest sigh, and emptied his bladder! After some moments, quickly going to him, I leaned over and yelled, "Fergy. Fergy. Fergy". into his right ear. Dismayed, I snapped my fingers in front of his eyes and looked intently at his face: it was very paled, his mouth slightly opened and his eyes were as glass: the pupils tiny dots! Twice lighting a paper match and holding it to his right nostril and then the left, I had much fear when the flame was not disturbed..

Getting to the phone, I spun the handle and immediately heard, quietly said, "Msgt. Priques": he knew it had to be me.

I quickly told him, "Sgt Priques. I think Cpl Ferguson just died!"

"What did you say Fraser? Whatdidyoujust fugginsay?". he loudly demanded!

I repeated, "Sgt Priques. I think Cpl Ferguson just died!".

Priques lost it and shrieked, "Fraser. you sonofabitch. what have you done to Ferguson? If you've banned him. you'll never get out of this man's army! Do you hear me Fraser!!"

Upset and angry, I yelled, "I think Fergy just fuggin died and you better fuggin do something!!"

Returning to Fergy, standing helpless, I looked again at his face, saw his soaking wet crotch, the large spreading puddle on the floor, turned and dolefully sat down at the desk waiting for whatever.

A few minutes passed, hearing vehicles and other sounds, I leaned over, looked out the door and saw whatever.

There it was. Msgt Priques in the lead, with two equally firmfaced staffs traipsing behind. I placed the back of the chair against the wall, the desk against my right, pressed hard back, planted my feet firmly on the floor, grabbed the arm rests, and attituded!

In they came! Priques, glancing at me, went streight to Fergy. While he looked, the other two took theirs and turned on me. Thinking, 'Fug all of you!'. I was eyeball to eyeballs! Priques turned around and with a concerned look on his face walked quickly out with the two following: I stayed the same!

In came others: big.very swift and professional: I dis-attituded!

They went streight to Fergy, talked quietly amongst themselves, gently placed Fergy on a stretcher and within twenty seconds were out the door! I slumped in my chair and thought. 'Now what?'.

An hour or so later an angry nco asked me, "What happened to Cpl Ferguson?". I replied, "I don't know. He just walked in, fell on the bunk and pissed his pants. Why?". He threatened, "Because, Fraser, if he dies, you'll never get out of the army!". Angry at his attitude, threat and insinuation, I loudly stated, "They can't do that because I didn't do anything wrong! I don't know what's wrong with Fergy but do know none of this is my fault!!". He got in my face and told me, "If Cpl Ferguson dies, the army will extend your enlistment and bury you in so much paperwork you'll never get out from under!". I replied, 'They can't do that", and he stated, "In the case of a death you'd be surprised what they can do and you're restricted to quarters"! He left, I went into the shack, sat down and thought, 'this is bullshit!.

The next day, Fergy, though in critical condition, was still alive: he was an alcoholic and had gotten into a sealed 55 gal barrel of antifreeze. I couldn't believe it when told I was responsible because I was in charge of the antifreeze and if I had secured the damn stuff, Fergy couldn't get to it. Secure it? How? Where? It was stored outside behind a supply trailer! More bullshit!

They measured the remaining content of my offending barrel and told me that it was over a gallon short!! Fergy spent many days in the hospital and receiving the best of care, survived. Some weeks later I saw him, sharply dressed in Khaki class A's, heading for noon chow, staggering, careening from wall to wall in the main corridor of the barracks at Ft Bliss. It was obvious, from his eyes and the expression on his face, that he was totally bewildered! I was told Fergy had very bad experiences in the Korean War, and because of his drinking , had been reduced in rank to permanent Cpl and that the army took care of its own.

It was admirable of them to give Cpl Ferguson personal care.

From Ralph Hatzenbeler of Yakima, WA
" Ken, Had to read the story of the corporal couple times, looking back I remember a little skinny guy, always in his class A walking up and down the hall in the barracks and never doing anything, I do remember we were told if we left our shaving lotion out we were in for a summary court martial, this guy kept drinking it, but we called him corporal Grasshopper, must be the same guy...Hatz"


Hi Ed,

Hatz is Ralph Hatzenbeler of Yakima, WA, who was drafted in Nov '56. He is a charter member of RCAT Btry which was birthed, I'm told, by the Great Oozlefinch in the spring of '57.
If this e-mail were footnoted to the story it would add to same and give credibility to some of what I have written. Can we do this?


Up The Mesa Ride - updated Feb 2008

Up The Mesa Ride


by Ken Fraser

A midweek day with brilliant clear blue sky.
Following noon chow we were loafing in front of the grass green wooden storage sheds, when an awfully serious nco, very sternly, ordered us to fall in single front file. There were about 15 of us low ranks and we responded with the usual 'slow shuffle'.  'Slow shuffle' was don't give a damn, lackadazial, round shouldered, head to an angle of personal choice, facial expression blank, smartass or bored, and the file line really loose! Normally the nco, though angry, would gently and patiently wait till we expressed ourselves, and then give his directed message.
This time was different.

He screamed, "I ordered you to fall in and you f&%%in' damned do so. dress right and stand at attention!. Right now!"
The man was in a want to kick and fistfight purple faced rage! Scared, we snapped to, dressed right, and in straight line stood sharply at attention.
 Still angry but calmed, he ordered, "Stand at ease and I mean at proper ease, not easy".
 Doing so with feet apart, knees locked, shoulders back, chests out, faces froze, heads correct, hands clasped together and pressed against bums, we were proper. The nco gave a nod, puffed a little and showed satisfaction. Looking left, I saw four or five, then right, eight or nine. I was impressed and proud.
The door of one of the stricly offlimits, heavy duty built, storage sheds was open, and out of the darkness strode 2nd Lt Brethlas with our battery commander, Capt Huggartz, who was about 5'8", 165#, and always had a stern military attitude: Lt Brethlas was web belting on an issue Colt 45 hand cannon and I wondered, 'what in hell is going on?'.

We heard a Jeep pull up behind us and Capt Huggartz brusquely ask : "Lt Brethlas, who do you want to go with you?"
Immediately he replied. "Fraser. Sir!".
Capt Huggartz ordered, "Fraser, get in the Jeep!".
Complimented, eager and thrilled, sharply coming to attention, I loudly responded, "Yes, Sir!" and broke rank to the rear, jumped into the back of the Jeep, sat on the center of where there should be a seat, while wishing Lt Brethlas would hurry up in case the captain changed his mind. No chance of that as Lt Brethlas hopped into the passenger seat and quietly, firmly, ordered Driver:
"Let's go!".

Lt Brethlas, mid twenties, a good officer who took his rank and job very seriously, was about 5'6", not fat or muscular: had shorty neck topped by a large round head which he kept shaved cue ball bald, causing it to glisten in the sun, and from a distance when in a cloud's shadow, stand out amongst the boonies like a frosted light bulb. He had a habit of taking his hat off with his left hand, and right hand flat palmed wiping, from front to back, the top of his head: I always wondered if he was feeling for new stubble, or trying to squeegee the sweat. Driver, late twenties or early thirties, was one of those easy six foot, 200+ pounders, of athletic build and with mean face. I'd met a few of these and all were the same: make you nervous bigtime!  He too had a hand cannon and I knew I was into something, and excited!
Away we went through the boonies on one of those two tracked, bumpy, twisting sandy trails, heading for the mesa which is maybe 10 miles away and 300 feet above the desert. Each hand grasping its side, bent knees shock absorbing to compensate for and reducing the severity of the swerving thumps and bumps, I leaned a little forward and looked at Driver and Lt Brethlas. They were so grimfaced! I looked at their pistolas and wondered, 'where was mine?'.
I asked, " Lt Brethlas, Sir, is that sidearm necessary?".
He abruptly replied, "If it wasn't, Fraser, I wouldn't have it!"
I told him, "Sir. I'll be right behind you"!
He stated, "I know that Fraser, that's why I chose you !" 
I would have been most satisfied to have been trusted with a semi/full automatic 30 cal carbine and ten, loaded, 15 round magazines. Holding on, as we neared the mesa, I wondered if these guys could shoot straight!
Turning right, we hit the slash of a gouged trail steeply climbing the mesa cliff face. It was very narrow, erosion rutted, pot holed and dangerous! As we got higher and higher I again looked at my fellow stalwarts. Driver had all limbs and bod aggressively moving us upwards, and I noticed Lt Brethlas doing the same as me: looking down and to our right, scared, because we were just an easy topple from doom. Driver had the cliff on his left, the convoluted trail ahead and couldn't divert his eyes to look to his right. Looking at him, I knew he was a real badass, and saw that he was scared too! Damn!

It seemed like forever to get near the top and the trail had smoothed.
Imagine, we're about to hit clear to the horizon wide open country, I not being told who or what might be there, and all we have are two Colt 45s! I became really concerned about our ability to handle whatever might be, looked around the sky hoping to see a big chopper coming our way, cargo door off, with Combat Infantrymen poised ready, and an Air Force fighter bomber circling overhead.  I wondered what we were supposed to do, if these two guys knew what they were doing, and my not being armed made me feel helpless.
What was left of my confidence vaporized!

Maybe 100' of road to go, the slash, now very smooth, leveled and then turned into a left hook.  Hunching up for a clear view by grabbing the back of Lt Brethlas seat,I saw Driver doing the same by pulling on the steering wheel, left foot flat on the floor pan, and right foot jamming the gas pedal: Lt Brethlas was leaning forward with his face very close to the windshield. The damn Jeep was screaming as we hit a rounded dirt knoll, went airborne and we heard and felt the springs bottom out as we bounced onto the brown, flat, grassy mesa. I was almost tossed out and felt a mixture of frustration, fear and anger! To hell with the speed, I wanted to bail out over the tailgate.  What was I supposed to do, throw clumps of sod?
After the Jeep came down all three of us were half standing and frantically looking for whatever.  There was nothing but light brown flat grassland as far as the eye could see, with a purplelish mountain range far in the back-ground. As the Jeep slowed, with Driver and the Lt now sitting flatbottomed in their seats, I tensely stood up and fearfully looked all around in front and to the sides. Nowhere in the thigh high grass were there wheel tracks, depressions, boonies, shrubs or trees for cover! I thought, 'what in hell is going on? Why was there such urgency? We could have got killed getting up here! This is bullshit!!'.

Ignoring me. Driver and Lt Brethlas got out, walked maybe 20 ft in front of the Jeep and with Driver on the left, stood close together, talking very quietly to each other while looking around. Following a few feet behind them, also looking around, I was ready to bury myself in the dense thigh high grass if they made any sudden moves or if something happened I didn't like.

All at once Lt Brethlas had a transceiver, (walky talky), to his right ear, mentioning co-ordinates and I couldn't make out what else. I was really surprised because I didn't know he had anything but the hand cannon.. This device was a little larger, flat light olive green, and had more controls than the old beat up ones I'd seen. The antennae caught my eye! It was maybe 3/4 " wide, 7 - 8 feet long and sagged limp to the ground. I didn't know we had such nice equipment.

Thinking they had relaxed, I figured, 'fuggit', and relaxed myself. I looked all around and just absorbed the beautiful scenery. In front was the mesa with mauve mountain range on the horizon: turning around I saw the desert floor beyond which were the Organ Mountains and to their right, more mountains flowing from one to the other. The silence, the colors, the complexity of all of this was just wonderful! I looked down and thought, 'no one else has stood where I am now; no wonder so many people have fought each other for this land!' It was so peaceful and I completely forgot about who I was with or how I got there.

The spell was broken by Lt Brethlas, saying curtly, "Fraser, here's the radio: monitor the frequency it's on and let me know if you hear anything. Anything".
They weren't relaxed a damn tad!
Not liking his attitude, holding it to my right ear and with their backs to me, I quickly looked at what I held. The front had a couple of switches and there was a small dial with numbers around it which I figured were different frequencies. There were a couple of other small dials with marks and a multi-finger press switch was on the left side. The antennae was just like a large, flat, wet noodle, and several feet laying in the grass caused me to think of some sort of water reed. Impressed, I got into what was going on and listened intently, while Lt Brethlas and Driver continued doing I know what, but why?

Suddenly. I heard a voice, garbled and low volumed, quickly stating some map co-ordinates and giving other information. I didn't pick up a damn thing he said!

I yelled, "Lt Brethlas. I just heard someone!".
He and Driver lurched around and Lt Brethlas loudly demanded, "What did he say?!".
I replied, "I don't know."
Hearing more, I tried to acknowledge, but my voice came out in a little squeek - I was suffering stagefright! Lt Brethlas, looking like he was going to explode, surprised me by the vivid foul language he directed against myself. Driver, steely-eyed, growing and expanding a couple of inches, messaged anger with contempt! (Hey, I was embarrassed!) Turning their backs to me, Lt Brethlas told me to switch to frequency (?). I just looked at the damn thing, put it back to my ear, heard nothing and with angry impulse, tossed it over my right shoulder!

Maybe a second later, Lt Brethlas and Driver, very quietly, spoke to each other, and pointing, one of them whispered, "Over there!".

They were looking intently a little to our right. I didn't see anything!

Lt Brethlas spun around, stared in disbelief and squealed, "Fraser, where's the fuggin radio?". Shaking, face and head red, he yelled, "Gawdammit, Fraser, where is that fuggin radio?!". Driver rapidly turned and glowered his total disgust. I turned and looked right where the radio had to be and couldn't see it! It just damn was not there! Everything getting worse: Lt Brethlas right into screaming, cursing tantrum, bad vibes from Driver received, I was impressed by the effectiveness of the camouflage of the radio and thought, 'this is really neat, the radio is invisible!'
Leaning over, ignoring background noises, searching intently in a widening circle from where the radio had to be. I saw it! Yes. there it was! Eyeing it for several seconds I proudly picked it up, the antennae slithering through the grass. Lt Brethlas ripped it from my hand, jammed it against his head and feverishly, repeatedly, tried to make contact! Nothing. Driver was intent on the horizon!

I attituded!

Anyway, after some minutes of nothing, we got into the Jeep: they were too pissed to talk.
I knew better!
Driver expressed himself by pedal to the floor 4-wheeling a 180: throwing out much grass with some sod! Lt Brethlas sat staring out front. I held on as we bumped onto and right turned into the downward slash. Damn. what long way down! Compared to what I saw ahead, the ride up was a joke. Holding on, I looked at my two buddies, they were no longer angry: just very apprehensive! Looking at how narrow, bumpy and steep this trail was, watching the rocks of the cliff pass by, I decided to bail out over the right side if it seemed we were going to roll over or slide off! If we did either, I knew it probably could happen too quickly for Lt Brethlas to raise up and throw himself clear. Driver was in a trap! Though concerned for them, I was damn glad to be where I was!

Driver did everything correct: stayed in low gear, foot pumping the brake, kept to the right, though hitting and grazing some, didn't turn or swerve too hard to miss a rut or pothole and concentrated staight ahead. I stared in total fear of what might happen and turned my head to the right: unlike myself and Lt Brethlas, poor Driver couldn't shut his eyes or turn away!
Finally, we rounded the left turn onto the desert and at easygoing pace, in total silence, returned to Oro Grande East Camp: without a word, they went their way and I mine. A day or so later, queried by an nco, I told him about this journey and questioned him about the mesa cliff road. He told me it was built by Combat Engineers using a bulldozer and shovels. They picked what they considered the best area and just started up: working their way carefully, a short section at a time. I thought about that. Lt Brethlas and Driver, having sidearms and the latest issue radio, the intensity of their emotions, made me curious about why we went to the mesa. I didn't ask, and wasn't told.

Whatever.

* - names changed
*- distance and elevation estimated

--------------------------------------------------------


Range Shutdown
Range Shutdown
by Ken Fraser

While lounging in our barracks hut during the fall of '57, reading, playing cards, (whatever), a Saturday evening radio news announcement told of a car on highway 54 being "buzzed' by two UFO's between Alamagordo and The Atomic Bar, which was Oscuro. Sunday news told us that the car's electric system quit and would not function again for many hours: there were reliable eye witnesses and we accepted this with interest.

After Monday morning seven A.M. chow Robert E Gotschall and myself began our start up of the radar generators. This was our job: running, maintaining and repairing the generators 'round the clock, nonstop, till Thursday or whenever Red Canyon stopped calling for RCAT targets. We were also responsible for the portable air conditioners and gasoline heaters that kept the radar vans at proper operating temperature while providing comfortable conditions for the radar techs, had to fill all these things with jerry cans and during windy weather were soaked with gasoline and diesel fuel. We had ten or so old gas Hobarts and two brand new Continental diesels, spaced about three feet apart for maybe twenty yards, along with a hated, worn out 12 volt battery charger. I think there were six vans.

We didn't have any start up!

The batteries were too weak or dead and after spending a solid half hour trying to get the filthy s.o.b. battery charger running we were forced to use the loathed handcranks. One after the other, we cranked and cranked and cranked those damned generators! We weren't getting any spark from the clackity-clackity-clackity-clakity magnetos on the Hobarts and the diesels were animals: certainly they had manual compression relief valves but that left only one of us to crank and their cranks accommodated four sets of hands!

After around two hours of this Gotschall and I were burnt out and our requests for help ignored. Irate Sfc Reyes came along, waving his arms and loudly demanding, "Get those (much profanity) generators (much profanity) going". I wrathftilly replied in kind, "What else do you (much profanity) think we would be (much profanity) trying to do?" He left in a profanity muttering huff. The loafing radar techs gently smartypants jawed about our not getting power to their vans. Communications Specialist Owens was freaking out trying to make contact with anyone: his radio, switchboard. direct telephone lines and WW II handlespinner were dead! Nothing worked; the range was down and we were bewildered.

Finally, around 10:30 am, we got reluctant help from the launch crew and after much constant cranking one of the diesels coughed, shook a little and came properly alive: our 'what's the big deal' help sauntered off to keep trying to get an RCAT started with their special gas engine starter. I set the diesel's rpm, adjusted frequency and voltage as necessary and being very pleased I told one of the techs in the connected van that power was on. He looked at his gages and told me, with attitude, this was not so.

Having Missouri intent I entered and was bemused that frequency, amps and voltage gages read zero! Sitting in his padded chair, Cole, the tech, condescended to look at the gages on the Continental: doing so, he saw frequency and voltage were exact as required and his attitude did a 180. We hurriedly returned to the van gages, which had not changed, left the van and checked the 32 pin coax, 2" diameter cable from generator to van and knowing they were properly connected, with awe, he said softly, "This is not possible!". Modestly gloating, I gently suggested that perhaps his gage panel was at fault.

We re-entered the van; he hi-teched the fuses and controls and murmured. Followed by the two other techs we returned to the generator whereupon they disconnected the coax cable from the generator and van and did a continuity check. End to end, each pin checked OK! They reattached the cable, we returned to their van gage panel and nothing changed. They being subdued, myself following them with much satisfaction, we went back to my generator, looked again and after checking another coax OK, the original was replaced. Same results: the gages read zero! I humbly inquired what they thought was wrong and was given an ernest short discourse on the phenomena of basic electricity and how what was happening was not possible! "Way over my head", I stated and thought, ' It pays to be dumber than a small box of rocks'. Without comment, they returned to their van.

I rejoined Robert E who was trying to get another generator started. We had some long jumper cables that would reach two generators each way and we went from one to another, back and forth, without getting any response. Around 11 am we had the other Continental running and the Hobarts, though balky, indicated they would start up. The diesels were running great, putting out as they should. Some of the Hobarts started up but we couldn't get them to properly generate.

Around 12:30 pm the range came alive! By then all the generators had started, smoothed out and peaked! The radar vans hummed up and Communications Specialist Owens was ecstatic to make contact. The Launch Crew, finally making an RCAT roar and JATO scream, sent the first one of the week across the range.

We were operating!

The next day Robert E Gotschall and myself went over the details of these events, couldn't understand why they happened and were especially puzzled by the Diesels not starting because they fire by compression. It is possible that the UFO report was a ruse to mask the test of a top secret experimental weapon such as an EMF pulse device.

I often think of the many others who were effected this day and wonder what they experienced.


Range Bandidos
Range Bandidos
by Ken Fraser

The nco's were very frustrated and foul mouthed angry by having recovered RCATs missing one or more important components such as the parachute, electronics, battery, the engine and especially the propellers. These salvageable parts were needed to repair damaged targets and to build complete targets when the supply of same became low. I listened with interest to these discussions as to whom might be responsible and didn't know there could be so many thieves: civilian thieves, civilian military employee thieves, rancher thieves, military member thieves. Red Canyon Range Camp special assignment thieves, or just plain professional anybody thieves who were selling to enemy agents. Hey, this was not a game we were in!

Radar plotted missile damaged targets that chuted down were chosen for first of next day recovery if they were in a convenient location. When the recovery crew got to them many were already missing parts: most of the time it was the propellers and I couldn't figure out who would want a propeller and how could thieves even find the targets in the first place. The nco's told me those damn (obscenity) ranchers were grabbing the props, putting clocks in them and hanging them over the fireplace or giving them away as presents to their (obscenity) civilian friends. It was quietly suggested that (curse) Red Canyon (cuss'n'cuss)collectors were out there on (swear) assigned theft mission but that was hard to accept. Supposedly, they skulked amongst the boonies and Jeeped like mad to get to a target as it came down, hoping to be close by as it landed, grab the prop, anything else they could, and get away. Someone even said Red Canyon was radar plotting the targets as they went down, radio transmitting directions to their good Jeeper buddies who were getting to them while the engines were still hot. It didn't make sense, ORC had busted props, mangled props and brand new replacement props: I'm sure if the proper approach were made to ORC something could have been worked out. But, that would spoil the fun.

In order to lessen the chance of theft the controllers would bring undamaged targets close to camp and 'pop' the chute so the target would land where desired. This led to a never admitted competition of sorts whereas the controllers would try to outdo each other by seeing which one of them could land a target closest to camp: at night this caused very anxious moments.

One time radar plotted a controller 'chuted' target, maybe 5 miles away, onto the road leading into camp from highway 54, and two GIs hurriedly jumped into a Jeep. An nco yelled, "Fraser. go with them"! The Jeep was on a slow roll as I jumped into the back and the driver floored the pedal and we raced off. The road was smooth but the turns hairy. Irate, sitting without seat or cushion, centered with extended hands each grasping a side, I earnestly asked in the drivers' ear, 'What's your (obscenity) hurry?! " He replied, "It might not be there when we get there". I asked, "Where in hell could it go?". Angry, he turned his head and in my face loudly replied, "Someone might get the (obscenity') thing I!". I wondered 'what in hell is going on!' Who could get it in the brief time it was taking us to get there? We raced on and soon saw a red object, maybe 200 yards ahead in the center of the road: getting closer we recognized it to be the tail assembly of an RCAT. The fuselage was sheared very clean and square and I did'nt see any controls hanging out. Looking east with a clear view to highway 54 we didn't see any vehicle and as we looked around the area for a vehicle or tracks leading off road I felt very uncomfortable and thought, 'if someone is crazy enough to enter Oscura Range in daylight and steal a target, they might be armed and because of the timing couldn't be far away, hidden, and probably watching us!' Hurriedly loading this left over part, without comment we headed back to camp with each of us having a serious attitude!

Later, it was explained to me that the thieves had used a chain saw to cut off the tail assembly and a van type truck to carry off the rest. I thought, wait a minute, 'to do this they had to be then and there as the target touched down.' cut off the tail assembly, bust off the wing through it's shear bolt, roll up the 30ft dia cargo chute and load the fuselage with motor and prop along with the wing, having maybe 3 foot long radar pods on each end, and then be out of sight within the less than 10 minutes it took us to get there.

Not satisfied, I asked why the empanage was cut off and was told that their truck was probably too short to load a full fuselage. I asked what about the wings with radar pods, if a chain saw was used why was the cut so clean and square, where were the controls, how many people might be involved and if they thought there was more than one vehicle. I was told to just shutup and stop asking so many questions. That was hard to do, but knew it was good advice.

Only sufficient dedicated personnel with the necessary planning, training, equipment and attitude could have accomplished this.

Maybe, they were Red Canyon Desert Rats.

I learned at the reunion the souvenir importance of an RCAT prop, so why not the whole target?


K9s
K9s
by Ken Fraser

One sunny afternoon I was walking by myself from the barracks towards the generators when I suddenly felt a very sharp stinging pain in the calf of my left leg, just above my boot. Frightened, thinking a rattlesnake had bitten me. I yelled and quickly jumped up and turned around.

There stood an amused nco and I looked down to see the source of my fright and pain. It was a snapping little Chihuahua dog; yapping, snarling, wet shining bullfroggy dark eyed, ears back, hackles up, threatening with a mouthfull of gar pike teeth while twitching up and down; letting me know he was ready for more.

I started to kick this little sonofabitch and the nco gave attitude of, 'don't even try'. My attention now on him I took half a step forward, raised my half clenched hands as his body language and facial expression warned, 'go ahead, the fun's mine!', With his kin just antagonizing the hell out of me I paused and looked at this stranger. He was an sfc, around forty, taller, pounds heavier, sort of rough cut faced and didn't seem just right. The name tag read, LaShortz: instinct told me to back off!

Knowing he had won, with smirking sarcastic arrogance LaShortz reached down, picked up and placed his little friend into a special large pocket hand sewn onto the left front side of his fatigue shirt. With LaShortz grinning, the ratty mean twerp, his front legs spread hanging out, chest expanded, ears back, wet black bulbous eyes glaring defiance, growled real tough as he showed those damn teeth and again gave me his message!

I wanted to pinch his ittybitty neck!

Watching were three laughing GIs. Angry. I asked them. "What's so (foul language) funny?". No response. I demanded, "C'mon. tell me what is so (foul language) funny?!". Again no response: I headed to the generators.

After a couple of more times of yapping, snapping, noisy harrassment I decided to do something about it! I was tired of this bully and his backup. Indeed, I was the only one as far as I knew, that his ratty little twerp wanted to rip apart!

Telling a buddy of mine that I could only stop this bs with thump, I asked him where LaShortz hung out. Knowing I wasn't a tough guy, he gave me a stern look and told me that LaShortz and rotary launch Sfc Ferpses were in a bar in Carrizozo having a few beers when a local goosed LaShortz: he spun around and hit him so hard the local went off the floor for about five feet and was out cold before landing flat on his back. Some weeks before this, due to a misunderstanding concerning the rotary launch, I had an altercation with Ferpses. Under alcoholic influence, he attacked me during a Saturday evening when I was ill and resting on my bunk: fortunately, luck was on my side and unfortunately, Ferpses went to the hospital. He and LaShortz were friends: - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Aha! (but, & oh,oh)

LaShortz was a boxer and liked to fight!

Strongly explaining and complaining to proper personnel about this situation brought it to an abrupt end and I sometimes think that Oscura Range Camp was assigned more than it's fair share of different people.

note - of course, actual names changed


Two Greenhorns
Two Greenhorns
by Ken Fraser

One morning during Spring '58 I was told by an nco to get a Jeep and take two new arrivals to a particular area on one of the mountains across the range. He gave me detailed directions and the purpose was to look for and mark on the map any downed targets we saw so recovery could pick them up later. This task was a world away from my job: I didn't want it and my attitude showed because I knew I was being punished for yesterday's bigmouth. That's how it would happen: I would express my opposite opinion about something that really wasn't any of my business and within a couple of days, pay. I constantly had the KP roster damn near memorized.

Returning from Eng Det 6 Motor Pool I told him a Jeep wasn't available and he told me to take the 3/4 ton Jeep. I was happy to again return and tell him it was broke down: he got angry and ordered me to take a deuce and a half and not only that to pick up any targets we saw. This was getting worse; targets are heavy! I told him I didn't have a drivers' license and he asked me, "How in hell have you been driving your car?". I smartass answered, "I mean a military drivers' license and I'm not authorized to drive any military vehicle!": I knew I had him. He got so angry, I became nervous and agreed when he screamed, "Out here you don't need a military drivers license and you'll drive any (foul expletive) Vehicle I order you to!!".

We took off in a deuce and a half.

The truck was almost brand new and fun to drive. This was my first time and I remember thinking driving a truck would be a nice job out here: as we headed out on the road across the range with scattered moderate sized cumulous clouds drifting overhead, I was glad to be spending my day on this.

For the first few miles nothing was said and I broke the ice by introducing myself. These guys were a couple of years younger than me, not happy to be where they were so I understood their attitude but got angry as they acted imperious when returning the introduction. It was a disdainful strain for them to even sort of mumble. They didn't have job assignments yet and I figured they were electronic hi-tech trained and considered themselves above this days' chore and myself. Thinking (foul expletive) them, I drove on.

Not giving a damn if they liked it or not' I explained to them the hazards of Oscura Range; natural and job related. They needed this information but were just too sophisticated to absorb anything I said. Realizing they might be in some state of mental shock because of their presence at Oscura Range Camp, I became sympathetic and thought, 'forget it, enjoy the drive and this day.'

Anyway, after we wound our way up into this mountain, (gorgeous scenery), we reached the turnoff point and proceeded from this rough road to the right to reach the area requested. Being faithful to instructions I finally lined up the landmarks as directed; I recall there were two peaks and something else. This done, I knew we were right where we should be. We had driven maybe 35 to 40 miles and all of this way, and here, we didn't see one downed target! No sir!

I graciously absorbed the beauteous impact of where we were. We were at such elevated place that wondrous panorama of mountains, clouds, mesas and desert were open before us. Looking to the clouds and equally into the desert, the soft pastel greens and browns, caused by the cloud's shadows, were accented with sharp contrast, same colors made brilliant by the sun. Absolute silence. Such stunning beauty!

Within a shadow, I saw a white dot moving through the boonies and realized this was the legendary stallion I had heard about but didn't believe existed. I told these two they were lucky to witness all of this and they couldn't care less about anything. They just stood around showing me how bored someone can get. I really didn't like their attitude!!

After maybe five minutes, within a second of each other, two overhead "Kapowws". were heard. We looked almost straight up, favoring north, and saw the cottonball clouds of exploding Nike Ajax missiles. From their position. I knew the big and little parts were going to impact in our area and I dove under the deuce and a half, crawling right under the transmission. I felt this was the safest place but feared if a big part hit above the transmission I would get squished. Ishinnied backwards to about the center of the box and feared high speed small parts would zing right through and realized a big part would squish me anyway. I shinnied back to the transmission and looked with apprehension at the gas tanks as my companions booted, laughed and hollered at my prudent move: I told them they better join me! They called me a (foul expletive) hero and other unsavory whatevers. I didn't care because I knew the danger we were in and that they were going to very shortly also know. All of this took not ten seconds and within a few more the small high speed stuff started to arrive.

Numerous zeeeee. crack, smack, tinkle, plunk and thumped were close by sounds, mostly east. as the Greenhorns dove under the truck; one jammed against each side of me. They wanted to be as close to the center as possible and I was glad to have them there! We covered our heads with our arms and nobody said anything: we were too scared! The real fright set in as the big stuff came down!

Wooooshie-a-wooooshie and loud Wumpedthumnpt! Wheeeeooh. wheoooh and several other loud Whumpedthumnpts!! These were really close by!!

Not moving, waiting briefly for other sounds and none happening, we broke apart and with relief exited to safe pasture. We took a very quick look around, didn't see any parts, and didn't care.

Fearing more of the same, leaping into the truck I yeHed, "Let's Go!!, and saw their attitudes had turned 180. Driving as fast as I dared for a few miles I slowed down to a safe enjoy the ride speed. Our conversation on the way back was cordial and they listened with respectful interest about other events that had happened on Oscura Range.

Back at camp I told the nco, (I forget who he was), that we didn't see any targets.

He most angrily didn't believe me: I didn't care. I angrily told him about the missiles: he didn't care.

The ex Greenhorns observed, and walked away.

After some mutual mean looks the nco and I split.


Free Movies
FREE MOVIES
by Ken Fraser

The weather was wet and cold, the sky had been overcast for a few days and the barracks were full this Saturday night because it was the weekend before payday and most of us were broke.

It was barracks standard for early evening with nothing to do: some guys sacked out, some playing cards, reading week old newspapers or writing letters, a few drinking warm foamy six packs, (not having cold beer was a hardship), and just generally dusty tatter-crowded. An nco walked in and announced the army was giving us free movies. Imagine, he stated, along with free room and board we also got free movies that were going start in about an hour and if anyone wanted to they should show up at----and he described the building. I thought, 'why not? no tv, no radio, I've read all the three day old newspapers and two month old magazines and I need some fresh air.' The barracks were air tight paneled Arctic Huts with fixed closed Plexiglas windows and if you opened a vent-slat someone would bitch about the cold draft. Picture about 2 1/2 ft between bunks, maybe 20 guys, dirty laundry bags, stale beer can smell, beer breaths with venting guts, body odors backed up by strong stockinged feet and a cool stroll to the movies and back becomes attractive.

I slipped on and loose-tied my boots, hitched up my pants, didn't bother with my fatigue shirt or floppy issue cap, donned my field jacket with hood and headed south for the free movie theater. Not having been in this building before I noticed it had but two short steps onto a sheltered porch and I walked through two open center split, with small windows, French style doors. Once inside I sat in a folding chair in the far right rear. This way I could watch the projectionist, the six or eight other show ups and the free movies all at the same time. While waiting, I looked around and tried to figure out the normal function of this room which was about 15 x 20 ft. (as best I remember), long side at my back and decided it must have been officer related, but I didn't know when. The windowed doors gave status and style and the place might have served as a ball room. What else?

The other guys were seated wide scattered as some optimist had unfolded 3 times the number of chairs needed: probably the dude that pitched the show and he wasn't there. The lanky in his late twenties projectionist, to my hard left, got set up, someone turned off the light hanging from the ceiling and the show was on. The projectors' bulb glowed to bright and the sound track loudly wailed slowly up so we could see an out of focus cowboy and hear twanging gittars with bits of the yodels. As I watched, the projectionist, his hair longish and scattered, adjusted the focus, turned down the sound, crossed his thin legs, put his thin chin in a hand, let his head droop and with his eyes glazed at the floor he morphed into a cast cement lawn statue.

Understandable, his way of coping.

Looking at the screen I could hardly believe, or accept what I saw and heard. There was Roy Rogers with 3 Singing Sons of The Pioneers and they were just ballading, twanging and harmonizing, singing and having a great smiling time. There were some muttered curses from the others and I was going to walk out but couldn't think of any place I wanted to go: I stayed figuring the next feature would be better. No one left. I very much like country western music, have great respect for Roy Rogers and his troupe, who always set a good example for all the kids, but being where I was I didn't need this.

Anyway, as the movie story progressed into singing, gittars, bad guys and good guys in a good guys gotta win plot: fist fights, shootemups, horse chases, more singing and gittars, horses kicking up dust, shootemup, good guys and bad guys plotting, tavern brawls, yodels and gittars, ballading, oh etc.: A glance at the projectionist, (I understood and felt sorry for him), showed he hadn't changed a bit. On and on this went and I noticed the projectionist seemed the same but really didn't and as I watched he satisfied my curiosity by changing chin hands. The screen image was poor, the sound track lousy and finally this ended with Roy and the Singing Sons happily singing as they rode off into the sunset, over a grassy knoll with a small tree on it. To this day I remember those white hats, the singing, and the horses' asses!

The film went flappity, flap, flap, flappity, the room lit up from the real bright screen, someone turned on the ceiling light and the projectionist snapped to his chore. Another of the audience opened the doors and the fresh air felt good as the room was overly warm and we needed a change. As the second main feature was being set up we just shifted a bit and I decided to leave if the next movie was as bad as the first. I looked out the doors and saw, dimly lit, other buildings in our complex. There was zero wind with the not too cold air just wafting in. Felt good.

The final feature came on with crisp image and excellent sound track: the projectionist resumed his morph. I glanced outside, looked back into and around the room and what I saw made me jump to and take notice

What absolute contrast. On the screen was a slim, beautiful, dark haired young lady wearing a full body leotart outfit that had to be painted on. She was a total contortionist and the maneuvers, the positions, the just at the everything in its right place pauses flowed on. Back then this was pornographic: it was wonderful! Everyone except the projectionist was sitting eyes front upright: he was back to wherever he had to go. After becoming one with the screen my mood suddenly changed when I suspected that some persons were playing games with our minds as they chose these films for sadistic reasons: knowing our lifestyle and cackling as they beer-drunk speculated about our reactions. You had to feel sorry for the projectionist. I turned my attention back to the lovely young lady and when a full bodied, life-sized front view image showed I fancied her sliding, as a sheet of paper, off the screen onto the floor and poofing into a three dimensional beauty. What a scramble that would have been. She just didn't stop, writhed and twisted and turned and paused and oh etc.

Booming from outside the open door a demanding voice commanded, "You guys get to your barracks right away because there is a blizzard coming and you've only got a few minutes!" I looked and saw a muscular GI with his pantlegs tucked in, (very unusual), no hat on, turn and run north. Nobody paid attention because they didn't have any left and after a few minutes he was back. This time he screamed, "You (many curses) guys get out of there and go to your barracks right now or (many curses) you will be in deep trouble. There is a blizzard coming and you get to your barracks: this is an order!!," He jumped up and down, fists clenched, arms bowed and slightly extended telling all concerned he wanted to fight: had to be an nco.

The projectionist leaped up and the audience, overturning chairs, did the same as they rushed for the door. Our messenger took off again and I thought, 'why the big deal, I've seen a lot of Great Lakes area blizzards' and in fact when a youngster, used to go out and play in the windy snow. As the projectionist hurried nervously with his job I sauntered to the door and paused when I saw a wall of white-gray, monster-flaked blurred horizontal snow, racing from right to left filling the outside view. Very surprised and with visibility not more than 3 feet I couldn't imagine, unless I saw it, snow like this. My gosh, was it intense! It didn't last more than 10 to 15 seconds and suddenly the view returned to normal, a camp light on a tall pole with low grayish buildings and dark shadows. I hurriedly headed through the door, off the porch into calm air and turned north.

Walking quickly, my loose boots flopping around my feet, I snapped up my field jacket and saw two others running in different directions across the area. Looking slightly up and straight ahead I saw a huge black void: even on a dark night the sky will have some light. This was really scary.

I was suddenly engulfed by huge nickel and quarter sized chunks of snow that impacted hard enough that I could feel them through my clothes. They stung my face and hands, piled up and chilled as they melted. The pain across my forehead led instantly to a sever headache I couldn't tolerate and I turned my back while pulling my hood over my head and drawing the facestring taut. The wind was blowing steady and hard enough that I had to lean well back as I tucked my hands into my sleeves and walked backwards. Looking to my right towards the barracks I could dimly see maybe 2 to 3 feet and that was it. Who could believe such a steady gale driving so much snow. I quickly became damp and chilled, estimated the barracks were maybe 15 ft to my right and that I had about 40 yards to go before I got near my barracks. I turned around to get my bearings, couldn't stand the pain caused by the snow hitting my face, turned around again and figured if I keep the snow directly at my back, I'll be ok and at the proper estimated distance I'll turn to my right, then bump into my barracks or the one next to it. I leaned back and plodded on wishing my boots weren't so damn uncomfortable and that I had more clothes on. Some yards later I was more than chilled, very damp and concerned!

Wondering if I should turn right I backed into something, lost my balance and fell. Frightened, rolling over to my right I was poked and jabbed by the branches of a small mesquite bush: I was north of the barracks where the area had small mesquite boonies, the bigger ones 2 to 3 feet high and about the same around. Back on my feet I looked around, saw as shadows other mesquites, felt a bad chill and realized with much concern that I had backed too far and didn't know for certain how far or just where my barracks were. These boonies were far enough apart that you could go for a distance between them: also, if the wind had shifted I would not notice and possibly was far out of my expected position. Deciding to get some shelter I squatted down in front of the boonie but this worsened the situation. The wind slowed and eddied around in front causing the snow to accumulate: the strong draft of the air moving away sucked the heat from my body and I quickly became very cold and shivering very hard. Frightened, angry with myself for being in this trap I quickly stood up.

Evaluating the results of a possible northeasterly wind shift, my backing up 20 to 25 yards too far, I estimated I was closer to the latrine than the barracks and by taking a 20 to 30 deg turn to my right, keeping the driven snow at the proper fixed angle, I would walk into a barracks. If not mine, no matter, but I knew I would hit a barracks.

At the same time I was starting to take the first step I heard the unmistakable sound of a heavy springed barracks door k'bang slamming shut. This sound came from in front of me and I knew it was the east door into my barracks. Pausing, feeling great relief, I turned an angle to my right and walked carefully as I didn't want to trip and fall again. Taking 15 to 20 steps, through the swirling snow I saw just a glimmer of light which became a glow and after a couple of more steps this turned so clearly into a lighted barracks window. The short distance of visibility was surprising.

Comforted, I walked to the window and looked in: there were a couple more guys in bed and others getting ready for same. As I watched, I realized what fine, good people they were and felt a measure of affection.

When I walked into the barracks two briefly looked at me as if to say, 'Where have you been?. I was so glad to be in there, went to my bunk without saying anything, draped my wet field jacket and pants over my foot locker so they would dry and put on fresh underwear: I also put on a set of insulated cotton longjohns, changed my cushysoled woolen socks, spread my extra wool blanket on my bunk, fluffed my pillows and thankfully crawled in. Snuggling into a very comfortable position I arranged the blankets and pillows till it felt like I was in a cocoon: I warmed up really nice and fell asleep.

When I woke up in the morning the barracks were almost empty and it was 10 am with a brilliant sun and blue sky outside: what a beautiful day. Surprisingly nearly all of the snow had melted except for small clumps where it was shadowed: such contrast from the night before.

An annoying inconvenience at ORC was having to leave the barracks whenever nature dictated and I think one of the guys was going to the latrine, opened the door, saw the blizzard, got mad, changed his mind and let the door slam shut. My memory of the barracks scene as I looked through the window

By following the plan I made, I would have found my barracks, but just enough change in wind direction and critical positions could have put me into a very serious predicament which would have been my own fault.


THE GREAT COUGAR HUNT
THE GREAT COUGAR HUNT
by Ken Fraser

It was a Saturdy night before payday weekend and the camp was full.

In the day room, (laugh), another Arctic hut,(laugh again),there were guys loafing: two of them into a so- what pool game and the rest reading worn out magazines and old newspapers that lay around. Along with assorted scattered small debris, the floor had a layer ofcliche dust with clumps: several full ashtrays, cigarette buts, paper wrappers and empty 12 oz pop top cans complimented the scene: the windows were so dusty that at night they looked frosted over. No one cared.

From there I visited several of the barracks and made small talk to those so inclined. Most didn't give a damn and I couldn't blame them as nobody, especially us ORRs*, were looking forward to Monday AM. Worse than that almost everyone was typically broke. The barracks were in disarray: with the bunks a couple of feet apart, wall lockers in between and foot lockers on the aisle behind each bunk. there was little room for normal living. Each was doing his quiet thing. Some sleeping, others reading, writing letters, trying to organize their possessions, hanging wet laundry, playing cards and all just being there.

Bored to a stage I can't describe I returned to my barracks hut. Same as the others, but home: laying on my bunk I joined the comatose.

Suddenly, some guy wearing fatigues comes running in the back door, all excited about a mountain lion that was seen in the lava beds by a couple of guys lucky enough to have transportation and the money to go into town. I asked him, "What's so unusual about that?" Eyes wide, he looked at me and exclaimed, "The New Mexico Cattlemens' Association and the State of New Mexico each pay a $500 bounty for a Mountain Lion! That's a thousand bucks and we're going out to get the son of a bitch! "! I thought he was nuts, but you should see how the apparent half dead came alive. No wonder, being paid $72.00 a month made $1000.00 an instant fortune!

It was incredulous! All at once here are these guys cramming into their fatiques, jamming on their boots, opening their wall and foot lockers, getting their assortment of guns and pistolas and charging out the doors. Watching this bedlam, I waited till they vacated, stepped outside and noticed it was a cold, very dark night; clear sky, no moon, no stars. Already the place was an eruption of excited activity. In such a short time who could realize the hubbub, the # of vehicles running with lights on: personal cars, a Jeep or two, even the bus from Engineer Detachment 6 was loading up. In a few more minutes I saw, with two others, the line of lights of this dusty caravan leaving camp and going out of sight to its' destiny.

The Lava Beds are as dangerous as they sound and were Strictly Off Limits. If you lost your footing and fell you could be fatally lacerated; if by yourself, who would know? According to local legend there were all kinds of ominous beasties, especially monstrous lizards lurking within. I never saw anything living. To navigate, you have to be very careful as the terrain is unlike what you will find anywhere else, except in another lava bed. It's important to not walk on a convex or concave surface as they may be the thin covering of a large cavity. You have to favor, long stepping and jumping from one to the other over crevices, the tops and edges of the larger blocks and chunks of lava; avoiding openings the beasties might be in.

And someone is going to hunt down, using flashlights, a cougar?

I returned to my bunk and fell asleep.

Later, I was awakened by the lucky returning Cougar Hunters who had lost their prey. Not much was said and I again fell asleep. Awakened the second time, (angry), I was told that two hunters could not be accounted for and that everyone was to go out there for search and rescue! After a short, intense discussion, the ncos left with a volunteer search party.

All returned within a couple of hours, disheartened. What did they expect?

It came to pass that these two huntsmen decided to hell with the hunt, went offrange and got drunk.

I now believe that there never was a cougar. I now believe that the huntsmen earlier dramatically convinced our excited messenger, and others, of this profitable cougar opportunity.

I now believe I know who it was.

*ORRs - Oscura Range Rodents - a wonderful group of rough, dedicated young men who did their difficult duty without complaint.

Some Mail started May 2009

Hello Lou,
I received your email from Ed Thelen and can't help you except suggest you contact public relations at White Sands or Ft Bliss.
My WSPG duty in latter '57/early '58 was at Oscura Range Camp, about 25 miles south of RCRC. We flew the targets, RCATs, that you ASPs shot your Ajax at.
I didn't know about the '59 RCRC turkey flap, but we had a cook who was banished to ORC for burning thirty pounds of fish at Ft Bliss.
Hope this helps.
Ken Fraser.

----- Original Message -----
From: Lou Reynolds
To: ed@ed-thelen.org
Sent: Sunday, May 24, 2009 8:16 AM
Subject: Red Canyon Spoiled Turkey Incident

Dear Ed:
I was a member of a Nike crew attending annual practice at Red Canyon in 1959. I received a certificate naming me as a member of the Ozzelfinch Society for my efforts in Rd Canyon. During my 1959 trip I, along with everyone at the Camp was stricken with dysentery from some spoiled turkey. Shortly after that incident, the Camp was closed.
Do you know about that turkey incident and do you know where or if, one can replace the "Ozzelfinch" certificate?
Lou Reynolds


If you have comments or suggestions, Send e-mail to Ed Thelen

Last updated May, 2008

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