The tale is told of the volunteer brevet cadet who, in spite of his shocking weediness, was sent on a dangerous mission. He had to travel, alone, through a hostile environment â€“ think belching volcanic gases, creeping tendrils and suckers, fierce slavering beasts with razor sharp fangs, turbulent rivers, turbulent skies, turbulent storms.
The field station commander was a man of unparalleled experience in this hostile environment, and he was confident that the brevet cadet would be emboldened by wearing a pith helmet, and that his whimpers would soon be a thing of the past. It pained him, then, when, six days later, he received a message by pneumatic funnel from the next field station along the line that the puny volunteer had tottered into the hut sobbing and wailing and quivering and generally lacking in resolution, bravery, and grit. The commander of the second field station bid him lie in a hammock and cranked up a gramophone player, hoping to increase his gusto by having the brevet cadet listen to stirring tunes played by the finest brass bands and dance orchestras. One recording in particular that was likely to do the trick was Enrico Pepingerâ€™s version of â€œHurrah Boys, Let Us March With Sprightly Tread Through Wild Lands Where We Fear Not The Buffets Of Those Who Would Cause Us Harmâ€.
By the time he reached the third field station, nine days later, he was feverish, shivering and shaking uncontrollably, half blind with terror, and calling out weakly for his Mama. He slumped against the door of the field station hut and begged for death to end his misery. And then, out of the hut came, not Death, but heroic adventuress Tiny Enid, who had flown in on her biplane just minutes before. She plucked the weedy cadet up and shoved him into the hut, where she poured four canteens of piping hot Batavian Twilight tea down his gob, wrenched off his standard issue dangerous mission footwear, and presented him with a pair of gumboots.
â€œListen, puny cadet,â€ she said, not unkindly, â€œYou have volunteered for this dangerous mission, and you will succeed! By wearing these gumboots, you will be emboldened, and one day you will return to HQ as a hero, a credit to your trooplet. Off you go!â€
This is exactly the kind of improving story that keeps me returning to read Hooting Yard every day. When my infant is old enough to know fear, and should he come to me in a spirit of anxiety this is the story I shall read to him.
I was having this discussion in a taxi heading downtown, rearranging my position on this friend of mine who had a little bit of a breakdown… but that’s beside the point. Are you sure that the second field station commander didn’t mistakenly pick up Enrico Pepinger’s earlier version of ‘Hurrah Boys, Let Us March With Sprightly Tread Through Wild Lands Where We Fear Not The Buffets Of Those Who Would Cause Us Harm’ i.e. the one sung in a slightly ironic voice? So far as I know, he recorded this song three times, each time putting a different inflection on the word ‘hurrah’. It was the second recording that was thought to be heroically inspiring; the other two were likely to make any poor soldier believe that bravery is for cowards. Great as her efforts were (go Tiny Enid!) they might not have been required had the commander been in full control of the nuances of his record collection.
I do believe that Tiny Enid’s intervention could have been avoided had the cadet been given a solar toupee rather than the lamentable pith helmet.
I further believe, in an attempt to engender a life time of happiness, that gum boots, banjos & coloured pencils should be issued to infants at birth and maintained in perpetuity.