Some strange things would happen. One morning, at the
height of the monsoons, the sun came up brightly at dawn
and shone all day. The early-morning skies were a clean,
brilliant blue, the only time before April that anyone saw
that at Khe Sanh, and instead of waking and coming out
shivering from their bunkers, the grunts stripped down to
. boots, pants and flak jackets; biceps, triceps and tattoos all
out for breakfast. Probably· because the NYA knew that
American surveillance and bombers would be working over-
time on a morning like this, there was almost no shelling, and
we all knew we could count on it. For those few hours Khe
Sanh had the atmosphere of reprieve. I remember passing a
Stubbe on the road and seeing his incredible
pleasure at the miracle of this morning. The hills did not
seem like the same hills that had given off so much fear the
night before and all of the days and nights before that. In the
early-morning light they looked sharp and tranquil, as
though you could take some apples and a book and go up
there for an afternoon.
I was walking around by myself in the 1st Battalion area.
It was before eight in the morning, and as I walked I could
hear someone walking behind me, singing. At first I couldn't
hear what it was, only that it was a single short phrase being
sung over and over at short intervals, and that every time
someone else would laugh and tell the singer to shut up. I
slowed down and let them catch up.
.. 'I'd rather be an Oscar Mayer weiner,' " the voice sang.
It sounded very plaintive and lonely.
Of course I turned around. There were two of them, one a
big Negro with a full mustache that drooped over the corners
of his mouth, a mean, signifying mustache that would have
worked if only there had been the smallest trace of meanness
anywhere on his face. He was at least six-three and quarter-
back thick. He was carrying an AJ(-47. The other Marine
was white, and if I'd seen him first from the back I would
have said that he was eleven years old. The Marines must
have a height requirement; whatever it is, I don't see how he
made it. Age is one thing, but how do you lie about your
height? He'd been doing the singing, and he was laughing
he'd made me turn around. His name was May-
hew, it was written out in enormous red letters across the
front of his helmet:
MAYHEW-You'd betrer believe
been walking with my flak jacket open, a stupid thing to do
even on this morning, and they could see the stitched tag
above my left breast pocket with the name of my magazine
wri tten on it.
"Correspondent?" the Negro said.
Mayhew just laughed
... 'I'd-a rather
be-a Oscar Mayer