After the roads were cleared, I hitched a ride to Hill 37. I knew the Mess Sergeant from 1/7, and thought he may be able to help with our situation with Bravo Company. The change of positions between 3/7 and 1/7 was chaotic. The 1/7 Mess Sergeant (Staff Sergeant Lopez) was in the process of assigning new mess men to their tasks. I waited . . . listening to him vent over the condition of his new mess hall. Finally when things calmed down he said, “Ptomaine, how can I help you?” When I answered, “Bravo Company won’t provide us with mess men. I have 2 cooks and 2 mess men to feed 400 Marines.” He agreed it was an impossible situation. “I’ll do what I can” was his answer.
Lopez already had a full plate of issues, and this wasn’t good timing for me to be asking favors. He walked me through his mess hall and pointed to the buildup of grease on the floors. In the storeroom there was a moldy loaf of bread behind a storage rack. Lopez reached to pick it up and then dropped it like a hot potato. “There’s something alive inside.”
We scooped the loaf up in a dustpan and took it outside. There was a round hole in one side of the bread (something had gnawed its way into the middle). One of the new mess men grabbed the brittle loaf and carefully broke it in half. Buried inside was a star-nosed mole with a litter of pink pups (they were hanging on, “opossum style”). She was blinded by the bright sunlight and was easily trapped in a #10 can.
Staff Sergeant Lopez started laughing at the absurdity of the predicament. “How can this be happening?” I said, “Good luck Sarge,” and invited him to visit us on Hill 65.