Work Detail

      Memory being what it is, gradual erosion through the years, has a negative effect on the chronology of events. Many sporadic but memorable events are responsible for the disjointed thread running through this narrative. I recall regularly scheduled periods of calisthenics, but I can't remember when or just where we did them. Probably before starting off to work each morning.

      Each Barrack was home to 1 Chief (Leader) 1 Asst. Chief( Asst. Leader) and 38 Indians (Grunts) This Group was lead by a Civilian Employee called the foreman. The Foreman for our Barrack was Mr. Moffit. He supplied all the brains and expertise required to carry out the assignments delegated through the office of the Company Commander Lt. Colonel ERWIN.

      After spreading poisoned oats over half of the Mahoja Desert Our attention was redirected to the construction of Water Retention Ponds (Water Holes) To support the wild herds of nomadic mustangs.  At 0800 Monday through Friday 19 Grunts and the Leader. (Sitting in the rear) , Piled onto a Army Troop (Truck) Transport and started out to a job site. The location had been scouted previously and determined to make a suitable site for a water hole. 30 or 40 miles from camp. The Crew Trucks followed a 3rd truck that was loaded with the tools of our trade. Picks- Shovels- Mattocks- Sledge Hammers - Crow Bars. Two 15 gal .cans drinking water (that had reached 98.6% f ) before lunch. of a box of apples and 41 brown bag lunches.containing 2 Sandwiches. One Cheese and one P/B /Jelly or Boloney (Bologna)

      I was in the truck load of Grunts with the Asst. Leader Fred Huston, We followed the lead truck about 5 miles then turned off the road toward the foot of the White Mountains.. The Dump Truck followed us to this "Rock Quarry " Each man was handed a tool (of his Choice if he was lucky) Eight or Ten of us chose Sledge Hammers and started making Little Rocks out of big Rocks.

     The routine continued for most of the week. The depression in the earth , took on the appearance of a great water hole approximately 50 feet in diameter and 5 to 6 feet deep with a bed of rocks (lining) Rip Rapped around the periphery from the lip to the basin. The results of our efforts would be revealed after we had a good rain, sufficient to fill the pond. Several weeks had passed before "THE RAINS CAME" At the first opportunity we returned to the site.

     We discovered, to our dismay, a dead horse, decomposing 30 yards from the very dry water hole. Mr. Moffit surveyed the basin of the hole and discovered that a large deposit of alkali. That perhaps had not been exposed to that much water in hundreds of years. Rain filled the hole and the horse drank the alkali laced water and was poisoned by it. Several veins of alkali acted as drain lines, just as though several open ended drain lines had been run from the center of the pond.  

     Mr. Moffit told us we had 2 choices. We could either repair the fault or abandon the site. He thought it best to repair the fault. He said" Too much effort has been expended just to go off and leave it. That would be admitting defeat" We could salvage it with an underground Earthen dam made of clay, across and deeper than the alkali veins. We would have to dig and haul clay from the "Rock Quarry" and haul water from camp to put in a trench. The Clay and water had to be mixed together to form a mortar that would harden like concrete and seal off the Alkali veins

     The solution to this Mixing problem would be solved by 20 bare feet. slogging back and forth all day long with teams rotating in 1 hour periods. .(The way Grapes were crushed in Europe.) One major problem -- The rotting horse was laying precisely wwhere the trench had to be dug. I learned a lesson that morning " NEVER VOLUNTEER for anything. But I did.

     I saturated the carcass with 5 gallons of diesel fuel and poured a stream away to a safe distance and ignighted the fuel. The carcass was cremated but the smell gagged us all day long.

     Once again the Clay diggers and Trench Diggers alternated each day. The Trench was very much like the Latrine Trench. Mixing the Clay was the most exhausting effort any of us had ever encountered. Small rocks and hard pieces of clay cut our feet and we were encouraged to were our Gaiters (goulashes). 15pounds of wet clay covered our goulashes. That was like walking with a concrete block tied to each foot. We finished the task. Its was a huge success and I'll venture to say that, That particular water hole has quaffed the thirst of several thousand mustangs and other wild life since its creation in summer of 1940.   

-  Sincerely Ed Braun


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