When I was in the army at Ft. Carson outside of Colorado springs I knew a fellow GI named Bayer. He was Italian. And because of his German last name I somehow had the idea that he might have been a war orphan. When I got out of the army after three years I was still twenty one years old. We were all young, unmarried and not very smart.
Bayer was the luckiest person I ever met. We got our meager pay at the end of every month and by that time none of us had any money.
We might have enough to take the bus to town and back and not being on base was worth doing that even if all we could do was nurse one beer.
Being short of bread Bayer would go about finding some. When we would walk down the street I would be on the sidewalk and he would be walking in the gutter. He almost always found some
money. Part of it was luck and part was technique.
He would walk around the hotels and bars and places where people would have gotten into or out of taxi’s, reasoning that that was where money might fall out of somebody’s pocket. So he would sometimes find paper money.
At one point a few of us got sent to Ft. Polk Louisiana for an extended time in the field, three months as I recall. A very extensive field maneuver with air force personnel included. By this time the military was racially integrated and those on this maneuver were sent to a remote part of the base to where the ‘colored’ troops would have been billeted. The barracks were World War II vintage and you could see the ground where the floorboard had separated.
Cattle were roaming the area and we tried to a cow up the barracks steps to put it in the sergeants room. But the cow was too strong and too smart for us.
During our time in the swamps I saw lean and very fast feral hogs running through the brush. Many of us got chiggers which a dictionary defines as a six-legged usually red or orange mite larva (family Trombiculidae) that feeds on skin cells and causes intensely itchy reddish welts; also : the adult mite of this larva. The way they were gotten rid of was with the lit end of a cigarette causing the littler fucker to back out of your body and then giving it a good scolding. I had three of them on my
belly right above my pubic hair.
At the end of our wallowing around the bayous we got a long weekend pass with just a few dollars each, we did not yet get paid. The town nearest the post was the notorious Leesville Louisiana which consisted of bars and pawn shops. I don’t now remember if we had civilian clothes or not but we hitch hiked to the nearby metropolis of Lake Charles which had to have more happening that Leesville.
We found a place to stay, a private home with rooms to let. Since we had so little bread I spent my time browsing record and book stores. Bayer went to a bar.
He spent his time and money nursing beers and digging the scene. There was an older guy at a table drinking and with some women hanging around him every body having a good time. The man
left with some of the women and Bayer thinks, maybe it will be lucky if I sit at that table.
He’s down to his last two dollars when the waitress approaches. Bayer spots something green on the floor and quietly stamps his foot over the green and orders another beer. When the waitress turns and leavers Bayer is under the table and grabs the green. He knows it is money. He puts the money on the table for the beer and discovers it is a twenty!
Keep in mind that the base pay of a brand new GI is $78 a month. So a twenty dollar bill was an astonishing windfall.