The Jack C. Berry World War II
Scrapbook: Coast Artillery Journal Articles

Spring Interlude
by Lieutenant Jack C. Berry
Coast Artillery Reserve

   The two American soldiers lay in the heavy grass that bordered a spiny, Normandy hedgerow. Their two rifles lay between them, glinting a soft blue in the sifted rays of the sun that filtered through the leaves of a haw tree above them. A half-eaten can of C-Rations had drawn a swarm of flies that buzzed softly now and then as they swirled up from the beans and then settled down again. One of the soldiers had his head resting in the crook of his arm; he was lying on his side, his knees were drawn up so his body was in a half-curl, and his eyes were closed. The other soldier was stretched out straight on his back, and he held a V-mail letter that he had received at mail call the day before. The letter was from his wife.
   And the letter said ... "We received your letter telling of your promotion the same day that the radios announced the invasion had started. Two big events in one day, huh? Oh, darling, now that the fighting has really started over there, I am so frightened for you ..."
   It was warm and lazy there in the sun. Above them the Thunderbolts droned monotonously in formations of eight toward St. Lo to the south. In a little valley below their retreat, there was a trickle of a stream that broadened out into a pool of stagnant water. Over this pool, dragonflies hovered and darted like they do in Illinois and Ohio in the spring. An old Frenchman was sitting beside the pool catching eels. He had a great gob of worms, sewed together with thread, at the end of his line, and he would let the ball settle to the bottom of the pool and lie there for several minutes. When he pulled it up, there would be two or three wriggling eels clinging to the worms, their teeth snagged in the threads. The Frenchman caught all of the eels that he wanted, rolled up his line around his pole, picked up the bucket holding his catch, and then plodded toward a dusty road that led to a small village just over the hill from them. He walked around a bend in the road and disappeared from view.
   And the letter said ... "Perhaps the war will end this year, and you'll be home for Christmas. Dad says that now that the invasion has started, it shouldn't take more than six months to drive the Germans clear back to Berlin. I hope he's right . . ." A young French girl skipped around the bend of the road where the old Frenchman had gone. She carried a small stool and a milk pail and there was a little brown dog with her that yapped and jumped at the stool. The girl laughed and swung the stool at the dog, and the dog dodged and ran ahead of the girl, barking back at her. The girl left the road and climbed over a stile in the hedgerow. She didn't see the two soldiers as she walked toward two cows out in the pasture between the hedges. When she reached the nearest cow, she put the stool down beside it, sat down and began to milk the cow.
   The little brown dog watched her for several minutes and then grew tired of watching, so he wandered away. He trotted down toward the pool and stopped to lap up some water. This done, he looked about him and then scampered up to the hedgerow where the two soldiers lay. He sniffed at the half-eaten tin of C-Rations and then looked at the soldiers. He didn't hear any objections, so he began to gobble the beans. Finished with eating, he wagged his tail in acknowledgement and lay down near the soldier who held the letter. The little dog panted and the saliva dripped from his tongue.
   And the letter said ... "It's really spring at last. Dad has the planting done, and he and Ned are out cultivating this afternoon. Wait until you see the old farm. You'll never recognize it. You remember the old elm near the corner. Well, we've cut it down, and ..."
   The girl down in the pasture finished milking the first cow and she went over to the other, carrying the pail, now half filled with milk. She sat down and filled the pail to the brim from the second cow. Then she chirruped for her dog. The little dog pricked up his ears, gave a backward glance to the two soldiers, and scampered down toward the girl. The pail was now very heavy, and the girl walked much slower than when she had come. She had much difficulty crossing the stile, but she finally reached the road and started down its dusty length. The dog trotted at her heels, with his head hanging slightly downward as he panted along. The two of them reached the bend in the road and were gone.
   The two cows walked slowly toward the little pool and drank deeply of the stale water. When they had their fill, they looked about them and then began to eat the long grass along the bank. And the letter said ... "I am sending you another box. This time I'll put in the jar of olives you have been wanting. It's funny how you get cravings for stuff like that, something you don't give a second thought to back here. I'll also put in some fudge, cookies, and ..." Up in the sky the Thunderbolts were returning. Some of them spluttered, and they didn't drone all together like they had.
   A sergeant led four soldiers carrying stretchers along the hedgerow. When the sergeant reached the two soldiers, he stopped and bent over them, and then he straightened up again. "Never mind these two," he said. "We'll notify graves registration when we get back."
   The five of them continued on along the hedgerows and soon disappeared.

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