(in, Babenhausen, West Germany, 1975)
Babenhausen West Germany, seven miles from the 545th Ordinance Company,
where Chick Evens lived…
The woman, German waitress in a Bavarian outfit, dress and all, left the bar area with a smile.
Her shoulders were very thin, her face and hands lightly tanned, and she was taller than most of the men in the bar, apparently so, who were Turkish. A few of the dark-eyed Turkish men strolled about from the bar to the tables in the next room where I had walked into. The strolling about customers, seemed more like people who had been hunted for—looking always here and there to see who came in, who was sitting at each table—somewhat guarded, so it appeared.
“Find a table, and I’ll bring you a beer if that’s what you’d like,” said the female server, “and there’s a table right over there,” she pointed into an even smaller room, with only four tables—perhaps for my benefit, which has to say something. My goal was to get half drunk, it was Saturday afternoon, and the sun was warm, not real warm, but warm, and in the guesthouse even warmer—near hot, just a stroke of luck—for the summer days in Babenhausen Township, for they can become agonizing.
I had not realized this was a Turkish bar for the most part—where a stranger would draw attention.
When I found my table and sat down, I looked about; my surroundings appeared to be a tinge dangerous. I moved a little closer to the side of the wall, a bit out of sight from the other two rooms. I got thinking—did I step into a hornets nest. Four men were sitting together at a table in the room connected to mine, along with several other tables filled with a mixture of young and old, male and female Turkish folk.
I had met a few Turkish families while living in West Germany, my experience with them stood me in good stead, or I might have retreated before I sat down at the table. As it was, I ordered a sandwich with the beer the server had already brought. I noticed one of the four men staring at me, and he had a pistol tucked away inside his trousers, I could barely see the handle, but I did get a glimpse of it. I did not want this to be my first encounter with a weapon in Germany. Although I have had them encounters before with drunks, having to fight my way out of a bar, but not with a pistol in hand, although I had had a drunk once put a gun to my head, outside a bar—once in my old neighborhood back in Minnesota; but this was Germany, and this fellow was Turkish.
In the preceding minutes, this had run through my brain. I had often imagined such a scene—being a loner for the most part during my youthful days, and as I said, even had at one time, a gun put to my head, and my share of fistfights, even a knife blade put up to my throat in Augsburg, Germany, a few years earlier, back in 1970. Nevertheless, the reality of such a happening here seemed remote. It was my head not my body that was reacting. My stomach was normal, my mouth unmoved, and no quivering to it. The man with the gun and his fellow men were talking about women in general, and that American Soldier. Which was I? In addition, by the looks of affairs, they detailed the two subjects.
Now, the robust, Turkish gunslinger, leaned over the top of his wooden chair, looking at me, “Where you from, headed for, comrade?” he said in a husky German tongue.
“I’m not headed for any place in particular,” I said.
“You seem to be a stranger here?”
“Yes, and no, I’m an American Soldier, stationed nearby, I live a half mile up the road, here in Babenhausen.”
He hesitated for a moment. Noticed I spoke broken German, meaning German mixed with English.
“Whew!” he said, not knowing how to say in English, ‘Is that a fact,’ or ‘is that so.’
“Who wants to spend all afternoon looking for a bar, when there’s one right here?” I shouted back, we were twenty-feet away from one another.
The gunslinger laughed. “That’s a fact for sure!” and gulped down his beer as if it was water.
“We’ve been lucky with the weather!” he yelled back at me.
I felt the sweat on my back, sticking to my shirt.
“Yes, it’s not been as hot as expected,” I commented. It being midsummer, but it was more than warm in the backrooms.
The four of them started in again on women, ordered me a drink, and as soon as I finished it, I got up and left the room. All four of the Turkish men appeared to be annoyed with one another—partly because the ceiling fans were not working and it was getting hotter and hotter in those two back rooms. One to the other was getting irritated and the drunker they got the more boastful they became. I felt—: why on earth did I come into this bar, the men were becoming almost intolerable for the waitress, her face showed fear and despair, they were hitting her on the rump as she walked by, spilling beer on the table, etcetera.
Now as I got up to leave (I had only had two beers), the server was passing through, and she was one of the most beautiful women I had seen thus far in Babenhausen. Being at the Army base most days, I saw very little of women. I stood motionless by the door, staring at the man with the pistol; he was rubbing the butt of the firearm. I kept thinking I had better get out of here it looks like trouble. I clutched the door handle as though someone might try to pull me back in, once outside. I have good instincts, I can smell trouble and I kept telling myself that by now it would be but minutes before that guy pulled that handgun out, and the sooner I got through that door, the safer I’d be.
When a person is in a panic, more often than not, one feels the limelight is on him, that no one else has anything more on his or her mind than you; and in this case, I was far from their ongoing dialogue, or frame of mind. I stepped outside the door, heard a shot, closed my eyes, the temptation to go back in to see what took place was strong, but I opened them back up quickly and started to walk back to my apartment, at a fast pace. I told myself as I neared my domicile, I was of no interest to anyone in that bar, and I was to him or her no more than a shovel full of sand, visible for a second. This was true; largely, it was the last time I would ever walk into that bar —being a loner in those far-off days, was often times a most dangers game…
No: 830 (10-22-2011)