Emboldened, In Gumboots

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 – think belching volcanic gases, creeping tendrils and suckers, fierce slavering beasts with razor sharp fangs, turbulent rivers, turbulent skies, turbulent storms.

On the fourth day the volunteer brevet cadet arrived at a field station. By this time he was pallid, fearful, and all a-whimper. The field station commander tried to inject some vim into the puny little fellow. He sat him down with a canteen of hot Sumatran Breakfast tea and gave him a good talking-to, explaining that brevet cadets, whether or not they were volunteers, were expected to be doughty and tough and resolute, to jut their jaws in determined fashion, sometimes while clenching a pipe between their teeth, and to laugh with hilarity in the face of peril. The brevet cadet sipped his tea in a weedy way, and tried unsuccessfully to stop whimpering. Eventually, the field station commander issued him with a pith helmet, clapped him on the back, and sent him off for the next stage of his mission.

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 Pepinger’s 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”.

After taking a nap and downing a canteen of hot Burmese Lunchtime tea, the volunteer was sent off on the next part of his perilous mission, enjoined by the second field commander to fear no buffets. But buffets came soon, for the brevet cadet now headed into territory more dangerous still. Here were huge plants oozing poison, earth tremors, the roaring and howling of unimaginably terrible monsters, magnetic anomalies, and many another sort of sight and sound and phenomenon that had the poor puny cadet piddling in his pantaloons.

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.

“Listen, puny cadet,” she said, not unkindly, “You 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!”

And so stirred was the brevet cadet by these words, and by the emboldenment he felt as he slipped his feet into the gumboots, that he strode off into even more hideous terrain, brave and strong and wholly free of fear, no longer with even a trace of weediness about his puny frame. And every word spoken by Tiny Enid was true, for six years later he came thundering back to HQ astride a huge rhinoceros, a pipe clamped between his teeth and a jut to his jaw, and the golden key to the secret fortress of the mysterious Adepts of the hidden tower of the invisible goat deity tucked in his saddlebag, and they festooned him with flowers and blew upon trumpets and pinned medals upon him and he was shipped homeward in great luxury, and was famed forever after as the no longer weedy volunteer brevet cadet.

3 thoughts on “Emboldened, In Gumboots

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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