War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Shilo - Day Two

I put on helmet, protection vest, ballistic goggles, climb into a truck and am driven through fields, past stands of birch, fields filled with thousands of corn stocks yellowed and stiff like the clay soldiers of china, through grasslands where a coyote stands soft silver and grey, it’s coat thickening for what is to come, unbothered by us as we make our way to the firing range, down a country road, a gravel lane and onto the range. rutted roads, a gate opened, we drive until we see a hill with six, maybe eight LAVs.

we pass the ambulance truck. three young medics sit on the hood of their vehicle waiting for the show to begin. young. beautiful.

we park the truck. thud. thud. thud. ra ra ra ra ra thud thud. pink tracers in the dusk. the smell of gunpowder. ammonia, like pissy diapers. I reach for my earplugs. a sergeant approaches, introduces himself. he’s teaching the gunners, the crews.

C company. young. smiling. they’re liking this. being outdoors. being soldiers. being together. making big noise. fireworks.

suddenly, it stops. a truck opens its back doors and long tables appear. big plastic boxes with metal clasps, hay boxes, are laid out. paper plates. plastic cutlery. coffee urns. juice urns. the boxes are opened and there is stir fry and beef and vegetables and rice and it’s very, very good. pumpkin pie too.

soldier eat quickly. get back to work.

the three graces run to a thicket of willow. laughing. a roll of toilet paper in hand. there are no blue rockets out here on the range. I can hear the women chatter and laugh. these friendships will last lifetimes I know. I envy them.

a big prairie moon rises. the colour of marmalade. it breaks my heart. where was that moon in August when I needed it?

the show begins again. thud thud thud. ra ra ra ra ra thud. the Major rolls in to check things out. how many of these has he seen?

the Cpl. who has been driving me, who has answered my hundreds of questions, and I, climb onto the hood of our truck to keep warm. lay our backs against the windshield and watch. it’s a drive-in theatre.

above us. the stars tocking away. indifferent. to the show down below. we get back into our truck. drive slowly in the dark. back home.

5 Comments (Closed)

Lesley Preston

Excellent site Suzanne. I’m glad I found the glossary on the extra’s section – lav means something completely different in my culture. Looking forward to your next post.


Oct 18 2008 · 10:29


Amazing. Love you and miss you.


Oct 18 2008 · 11:46


A tough task at hand Suzanne. Wonderful prose, but how hard is it going to be to remain neutral when you’re so close? I think you might begin the understand the dichotomy of a soldier’s world: hate war and the heartbreak that comes with it but love doing the job…

Oct 24 2008 · 11:51


yes, this is the challenge… not to “drink the Kool-Aid” as they say (i.e. lose the neutrality you speak of)…

one of the Majors said to me the other night something about being “neither friend nor enemy”…

vis-a-vis the dichotomy you mention… I absolutely recognize this and it fascinates me…

ultimately, my job is to witness… wish me luck that I get at least a thread of it right…

Oct 24 2008 · 12:33


You are getting it right.

Oct 27 2008 · 10:14

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Shilo - Day Two. It was posted here on October 16, 2008.


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