Many years ago I drank some really good dark beer with an Army Captain, played below my level at chess, and listened to him talk about things that might have gotten him a court martial. I was more than a good chess player; I was a good drunk chess player. If I could have gotten Bobby Fisher at the table with a fifth I would have owned that punk. Drinking with an officer was good enough. But this was a man who wanted to win, or at least beat this lowly Private at chess, and as long as he was supplying the beer I was more than willing to let him come close, but not quite winning.
I asked him where the Soviets would invade from and he said “North”. The idea was a fairly old one with the Soviets launching a full scale invasion using the vast frozen north as a springboard. I didn’t say so but I didn’t think it would work for a lot of reasons, first and foremost the tundra favors the defender and wide open spaces favor anyone with a decent air force and we had one, and still do. The idea of attacking that far away seemed a little weird, too, and I did mention that, and the Captain said there really wasn’t another way in.
The big problem with an invasion of America, he slurred, was the Communists had over one hundred thousand men trapped in Cuba? Trapped? The plan to invade the South looked good up until they reached I-10 in Florida and then all hell would break loose. Whereas in most cases of invasion the defenders would be hampered by thousands of refugees flooding away in front of the invaders, the South would have just about seventy percent of those capable of holding a firearm running towards the front…grinning. The population of the rural South is an armed camp. Nearly everyone is armed. Most of those people shoot on a regular basis. None of them have ever truly bought into Marxism. More than a few of them play with things that explode for a hobby. I went to High School with those people.
The US military planned to drop as much of I-10 that was elevated on its side in such an event, and pretty much try to make a stand somewhere around fifty miles north of that, just in case the locals didn’t eat the Soviets for breakfast. Think about it. How many officers can you lose to fourteen year olds in tree stands using high powered rifles before you have to start promoting people in places they aren’t suited to serve? You think Iraq was a hard fight? Fargo Georgia would run red with blood before anyone ever set up a base camp in that tiny town. You would have a small population of heavily armed and totally dedicated people, men, women, children, old folks and pit bull dogs with nothing better to do than hunt and kill. Now imagine a few thousand places like this from the Atlantic to the border of Texas. The Union Army took a quarter of a million fatalities coming here and they spoke the same language, sort of. That was before we started buying AK-47’s at Wal Mart, too. They used to sell them there, time was.
I grabbed a beer and looked at the Captain meaningfully. He couldn’t let an enlisted man outdrink him so he finished half a beer at one time and motioned for another. I opened one for him, and then went to the bathroom and let him contemplate his pieces. My kingside knight had bounced around the middle of the board drawing his pawns out, too far out, and now the other knight was about to leap over his pawn structure to fork his queen and rook if he wasn’t careful. He would see that, of course, that was why I was giving him a little time to look. I returned and noticed he had moved his queen, blocking his knight in, just as I thought he would.
The problem with the Soviets coming up from Cuba is the heat. Cuba is hot but it’s different from the triple digit heat and drippy humidity of the Deep South. There is thick undergrowth here; kudzu, briars, and vines with thorns, as well as tangles of wild grape vines, and that’s those things not actively trying to kill you. Chiggers, a nearly microscopic insect that sucks blood and leaves welts on the skin that itch, live in Spanish moss are pandemic. Fireants, tiny but mighty, attack in mass, and kill more people every year than do venomous snakes, which we have in the most exciting varieties here. The first time someone who is accustomed to smallish snakes sees a six foot long Eastern Diamondback is for that person’s eyes never to leave the ground again…ever. And then there’s that fourteen year old in a tree stand armed with a rifle with an effective range somewhere around five hundred yards, on a bad day, and there will be a few of those.
The Captain looked at his beer as if it were getting more full, not empty. I was one up on him, beer-wise and he was trying to catch up. I listened to him talk about the logistic nightmare of trying to get supplies through hostile territory, and at the same time, his queen was blocking a piece, and his pawns were getting picked off one by one. He had lost the ability to castle when I sent in a knight to die to make sure he didn’t. The center of the board was crowded and sticky with pieces and no one was going anywhere. I was going to flank the opposite side where his queen went to rescue and collapse the entire mess. But I wanted him to think there was a way out first.
“Where did you say you were from, Firesmith?” the Captain asked as we set the pieces up again. He had very nearly got his queen and remaining rook out to attack before the end.
“Georgia, sir,” I replied, “beer?”
“Yeah, thanks, you’re not bad at this you know, but I’m just a little rusty.”
“Yes, sir, I can tell.” I opened up another beer, and a queen pawn.