The Pittsburgh Press (November 18, 1943)
By Ernie Pyle
Ernie Pyle is writing a short series of columns on his experiences and impressions at home while taking a rest from his arduous assignment in the war zones. He is about to shove off again for the battlefronts.
Albuquerque, New Mexico –
During a part of my vacation here in Albuquerque my old friend Paige Cavanaugh came over from Inglewood, California, and spent his vacation.
Cavanaugh is a farm boy from Salem, Indiana, who was on the Mexican border when he was 16, was in France throughout the last war, somehow made his way through Indiana University in the early ‘20s, and then went to California, where he has been fretting about the weather for the last two decades.
Cavanaugh says it took him two years to get from private to PFC in the last war, and he’s afraid he couldn’t equal such a meteoric rise in this one, so he’s decided to sit it out.
Cavanaugh and I both like to work (at certain times and at certain things). So, while he was here, we mowed the lawn twice, spread fertilizer and iron sulphate on it, cleaned and adjusted all the nozzles on the sprinkler system, poisoned several an-tholes, split and stacked in the shed a ton of fireplace wood, and washed the dishes every day.
In addition to that Cavanaugh all alone spaded up every foot of ground of the big south lot, just in order to get the stickers turned under so the dog could run around without getting them in her feet.
‘Wanton destruction’ begins
When all that was done, we went to work on the woodshed, which is the catchall. Every house has a catchall, in some form or other. The woodshed was so stacked with junk you could hardly get the door open. I said:
I’ll fix that. We will use the principle of wanton destruction. We will pillage and we will burn.
So, Cavanaugh dug a great hole in the backyard. You could have put half a jeep in it. And then we began carrying stuff out of the woodshed and throwing it in that hole. When it was full, we set a match to it.
All afternoon we carried stuff out of the woodshed and stacked onto the fire. People up in the Jemez Mountains thought we were Indians, trying to signal a message. I don’t know what our neighbors thought, and don’t want to know.
But one thing on our destruction list stumped us. That was a big old-fashioned radio that weighed about 60 pounds and hadn’t played a note for years.
I was going to burn it, but Cavanaugh said no, it was too good to destroy, let’s give it to somebody. So, we looked up several radio repair shops, and started out.
I’ll bet we have trouble. People will think there’s some catch to giving a radio away, and will be suspicious.
And I was right. I went into a radio shop and explained the circumstances. I said:
We haven’t got room for it at our house. It’s old, but it’s big and has lots of parts in it you could use. There’s no catch to it. We just want to give it away.
The woman behind the counter gave me the old don’t-you-try-to-cheat-me-young-man look and said condescendingly:
Well, bring it in, we’ll look at it.
So, Cavanaugh lugged the huge thing in, almost breaking his back. The woman gave him the cold eye, and never so much as said thank you.
After we left, we got mad. As the afternoon wore on, we got madder. I said:
That guy will spend $5 fixing that thing up, and sell it for $75.
Sure he will. And they didn’t even say thank you. Let’s go and take it away from them.
Stuck with it again
And by jimmy we did. We just went back and said we’d changed our minds, and lugged the thing back to the car. Now we were stuck with it again.
On the way home we stopped to see our friend Sister Margaret Jane, who is Mother Superior at St. Joseph’s Hospital. We told her what we’d done, and Sister almost died laughing at our audacity. Then she said:
Well, if you don’t know what to do with it, give it to me. One of the workmen can fix it up, and we can sure use it around here.
So, we lugged it into the ambulance entrance of the hospital, heaved a great sigh of relief, and went on home. After a while the phone rang. It was Sister Margaret Jane. She was laughing so hard she could barely talk.
What’s the matter?
Why, we’ve just plugged the radio in and it started right off playing. There wasn’t anything the matter with it at all!