We were a small close-knit group of soldiers, thrown together because of circumstance.
Because of the immensity of the since de-activated Fourth Armored Division, a “sub-division” headquarters was formed and was located at Nuremberg, which was toward the northern end of the division. A group of perhaps 25 made up the division’s finance, judge advocate and public information offices.
That’s it – 25 total handling legal problems, finances (including paying thousands of soldiers) and putting out the division newspaper – The Rolling Review – every two weeks.
We didn’t have our own mess hall and we were continually shuffled from one barracks to another because “regular” GIs really didn’t like us much. We didn’t contribute to hiring mess hall help, we never pulled what was called “kitchen police” duty – a glorified term for dishwasher and potato peeler – and we didn’t march with them, go out on a two-week deployment to hell-hole training areas.
So, we kept to ourselves.
The public information office included about eight soldiers, including five who worked on The Rolling Review.
Fortunately, we got along well. I don’t recall anything more than the usual petty argument over music that was too loud or temperatures that were too high or too cold.
That’s also where I met Gardner, one of the most unique individuals I’ve ever known in my 70 years.
Gardner was perhaps the most un-athletic person I’ve ever known Once (and you can’t make stuff like this up) we convinced Gardner to join us for round of golf on the 18-hole course right at our home of Monteith Barracks. Although he balked at joining us, we finally convinced him that if he did play a round of golf with us we wouldn’t break his arms or legs instead.
Gardner left us all laughing hysterically.
The first tee sat between two trees and perhaps 30 feet behind. When Gardner’s time to tee off arrived, he clumsily drew the driver back and over his head and flailed at the ball. Surprisingly, he made solid contact; however, his direction left a lot to be desired.
The ball shot off the tee directly toward the tree on the right. Smack! The ball then sped to the left and, yes, solidly hit the tree on the left, again with a perfect angle that propelled the small white ball directly back at Gardner. That is one scene I will never forget – Gardner frantically waving in the air as he tried to avoid being hit by the same ball he’s just launched off the tee.
Like I said, you can’t make up stuff like that.
Gardner was one of a kind in a lot of ways. He was from Salem, Mass., and he swore that it’s true there are witches living there. Seems to me, he said there were some witches in his own family.
When we’d sit behind our desks writing stories for the next edition of The Rolling Review, Gardner would sit at his desk, back against the wall, both legs behind his neck. Every day, in that position, all the change in Gardner’s pocket would drop to the floor. “Don’t worry about it,” he said. “I’ll pick it up when I need it.”
Gardner did a lot of general assignment work, but his main job was to write regular columns on re-enlistment and safety. Some of the stories he turned over were hilarious.
But, Gardner’s biggest forte was science fiction. He loved it and he would spend literally hour upon hour behind his typewriter, churning out one science fiction story after another. He even hired me to re-type his stories in a form he felt was worthy of submission to a wide range of publishers, in hopes they’d purchase his stories.
One story concerned Kdblkrd Senjco (how could you ever forget a fictitious name like that?) who lived in the dark, damp caverns beneath the Nuremberg Castle.
I never knew what became of old Kdblkrd, but I do know what became of Gardner.
After he returned stateside following his discharge, he became editor of Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, a position he held for decades. He’s written probably 45 books that have been published. I was even surprised one time in the 1980s to read a short story he’d written that appeared in Playboy Magazine.
You can look him up on the internet. He’s lived in Philadelphia for years and we’ve stayed in periodic contact for the past 10, or so, years.
Gardner Raymond Dozois couldn’t hit a golf ball very well. But, he’s a genius when it comes to writing science fiction.
(Bill Haglund is a writer for Stephens Media.)