William J. “Billy” Barnes
SEND YOUR SINUSES TO HOA LONG
There was panic on the gun-line as the word was passed around
That they’d seen a snake on gun-pit Number 1.
The boys had searched, but gingerly, and nothing had been found,
So they asked the Sarge for something to be done.
One had sworn it was a cobra, he had seen its hooded head.
Another said it was a banded crate.
The reptile, it had last been seen around by Shorty’s bed –
The sun was low and it was getting late.
Now, Number 1 was Heta’s gun – a Sergeant of some bulk
Who liked his kai, his music, and his sleep.
The pit was where he stashed his food, and it was an insult
That this creature might upset his evening feast.
He had the crew surround the pit all armed with stones and sticks
To bang the iron walls and make a din.
He hoped the noise would flush it out so they could trap it quick
And get their evening brew and tucker in.
This tactic was a failure and the snake did not escape,
They assumed he’d found a comfy hole to nest.
The solution, as a last resort, they’d have to fumigate
The asp that dared this Gunners’ home infest.
So Heta sent his Bombardier to the Conex store to draw
A small supply of coloured smoke grenades;
They’d toss these down the darkened pit and quickly shut the door,
Then wait outside with shovels, axe, and spades.
The Batt’ry’s guns were laid due South – six in a staggered row,
Behind then were the lines of sand-bagged tents.
In the centre the Command Post sat, at the helm the G.P.O. –
Number 1 was at the Eastern-most extent.
The other crews were busy, getting ready for stand-to.
The evening air was heavy, steaming. hot;
And “Echo” gun was loaded, set to fire the night’s curfew;
The wind was from the East at seven knots.
Without a word to anyone, old Heta let ‘em go,
Six canisters of smoke were thrown unpinned.
From deep inside the fumes poured out the cracks like swirling snow
While the gun-crew stood about, outside, upwind.
The canisters then burned for ninety seconds, pumping smoke,
And the cloud was soon dispersed and carried west.
As it passed along the gun-line all the crews began to choke –
It was blind, unbridled, panic at its best!
The boys on Number 2 and Number 3, they got it first.
They fell about their post and coughed aloud.
The C.P., being all enclosed, they seemed to get it worst
As the staff were trapped inside their toxic shroud.
Their eyes were streaming, stinging, and their skins were itched and burned,
And one or two collapsed for lack of air.
Then 4 and 6 and “Echo” guns were struck down in their turn;
The guns were out of action, it was clear.
Now, Heta’s boys, to windward, watched this farce quite unaware,
And they saw their mates all writhe in pained distress.
Until, at last, 5 minutes passed. The fumes just disappeared
As the myst’ry cloud dissolved out to the West.
With tearful words the G.P.O. barked down the tannoy wire
For Number 1 Gun Sergeant to report,
And to bring with him the canisters that he had chose to fire
That had left the whole position well distraught.
He brought the grey containers with their markings cast in red
And laid them on the green and dewy grass.
He was quite amazed at all the fuss, especially when they said
These cans contained a “C.S.” riot gas!
Heta cringed, because he thought they’d been red smoke grenades
And hadn’t checked the writing – his mistake!
But, he really thought the outcome would be worth the price they paid –
They surely would have stunned that bloody snake!
So then, they checked the gun-pit, high and low, into the night,
To try and justify their frightful blue;
They had to find the adder just to prove that they were right –
That their lives had been endangered, to be true.
They didn’t find a monster, but the theory proved instead
That together snakes and Kiwis don’t belong.
‘Cos eventually they found it – suffocated, limp and dead –
A tiny harmless tree snake one foot long!
It cost old Heta plenty, both in jibes and shouts of beer,
And they hung the skin up in the Sergeants’ Mess.
He was regu’ly reminded in the midst of drinking cheer
That he’d better sit the colour-blindness test.
But, he took it all, and laughed back with his boys inside their tent,
And they put the episode into a song.
And they sang with great alacrity of the day that they had sent
Every sinus in the batt’ry to Hoa Long!
©Copyright 2002 by William J. “Billy” Barnes