Note and Disclaimer: M*A*S*H is never mine or yours. We just have imagination and that is good enough. Many thanks to the season 11 episode "Trick or Treatment" for the inspiration.
As I've always said, there are many times I feel so useless in my position in the camp. Other times, I feel that I am needed only for the most tragic or the happiest of moments. Then, there are those instances where I feel a little silly blessing something. I have intoned prayers over jeeps, generators, cows and more.
It's not a complaint. I thank God everyday for the opportunity to spread his love everywhere. I also quite enjoy having to give others the joy of a blessing in mundane items. However, as I sit here in my tent, writing the sermon for Sunday, I am reminded of earlier today. I chuckle when I think back to the benediction I had to conduct for a local farmer. He was fortunate to have enough material to build a chicken coop and all because he found a spot that was not being bombed. Once the chickens were protected and he received enough eggs for several meals, he felt God shone his goodness on him and desired to have it blessed.
There were not too many Koreans who were Christian. Missionaries settled here and converted a few. Nuns have established their convents. And yet, there was still one who wished for me bless something and knew of my powers of a priest. Klinger brought me the message, which passed from one villager to the next until it reached Klinger and then me.
"He wants me to bless his chicken coop?" I was baffled. "Why ever for Klinger?"
Klinger shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know, Father. It sounds like someone trying to curry favor. You know?" He crossed himself.
"Never mind that, Klinger." I stood up. "Oh, to bless a chicken coop for bounty is nothing the Lord does not take lightly. Food nourishes the human body. I shall go."
I don't think Klinger understood. While I packed and readied myself to leave camp, he mumbled about the madness of the Korean farmers. He thought there was bad luck in blessing a place where food was. I dismissed his superstitions and finished packing the items of my office. Once I obtained permission to leave for myself and Klinger (promising Colonel Blake that he will not escape), I signed a jeep out. Even as a driver, Klinger insisted that he protect me at all costs.
The drive was not long. When we arrived, the farmer approached me and began bowing, chatting in Korean. I almost could not understand him, but caught that he was grateful and that I was the instrument to the Lord. I felt honored and a little uncomfortable being so important. I motioned that we continue and he led us to the chicken coop.
I have to say, it was an impressive structure. It was about six feet tall and twelve across. All sorts of creatures popped in and out of the doorways, chucking away and pecking at the ground. Straw stuck out at odd corners. The smell of fresh excrement filled my nostrils.
"Well, let me get to work," I said. I unpacked and made the sign of the cross. "Bless us, oh, Lord, in these gifts You give us daily…"
I continued with the prayer, but kept getting interrupted. For once, it was not Klinger. In the distance, I heard some playful, drunken yelling. Someone started a jeep and then another. Then, the vehicles skidded across the dirt road. The two kept hitting the other in a sickening metallic embrace.
I ignored it the best way I could, intoning the words of benefit to the farmer. Nobody can stop me from giving thanks. The Lord will provide.
Suddenly, I heard Klinger. "Father, look out!"
I don't know what happened next. All I know is that Klinger rushed over in his high heels and knocked me to the ground, some distance from the chicken coop. I was angry, of course, and would have chided him for his rashness. When I saw the crash, though, I understood why Klinger pushed me.
The Marines that caused this mess had gotten drunk. They managed to obtain two jeeps and have a race, it appeared. Going on top speed forward did not satisfy then. They had to work backwards and not watch where they were going. The jeeps went over the creek and towards the farm and into the enclosure. They would have hit me from behind had Klinger not helped me. Instead, they stopped at the chicken coop, destroying it completely.
Chickens and their eggs and feathers flew everywhere. Yokes and shells littered the rocky ground. The bodies of the drivers remained shaky in their seats. Their bloody limbs attempted to stand up, but they kept falling. Eventually, they fell out and laid still on the ground, a smile on their faces. It was almost like a job well done for them.
Understandably, the farmer was distraught. He chanted about his great loss, falling to his knees and crying. Klinger helped me up and I tried comforting the farmer, blessing him and his chickens that were left. Klinger assessed the damages the Marines unleashed. Most certainly, they will require medical attention.
"We should get them back to camp," Klinger said when I finished.
"I think so too," I replied, thankful only two needed our assistance.
After giving another blessing, Klinger and I picked up the patients and left with them. We arrived back at the camp and called for some immediate help. Klinger helped the Marines into Pre-Op while I waved the nearby Colonel Blake and Major Burns over. They met me at our jeep as I sat in the passenger seat. From my position, I explained all that happened.
"Well, I guess the Army will have to compensate for the loss," Colonel Blake said. He scratched his head.
"Why?" Major Burns sneered. "It's just a bunch of chickens."
"It could have been the eggs they laid," the colonel explained.
"We don't know how many eggs they would have given that farmer."
"Well, at least they'd give something from their butt."
Major Burns was insulted. "How dare you?!"
Then, the two began to argue in front of me. I did try to interject, but it was to no avail. Nobody was going to listen to me. Most certainly, Major Burns was not allowing me into the conversation. Colonel Blake was apologetic.
Suddenly, though, one of the dreaded birds came out of nowhere from my feet. It half-flew out of the jeep and landed on Major Burns' feet. Finding something of interest to feed, it plucked at the dirt…and released some excrement on Major Burns' boots. The white liquid dribbled to the ground.
"Disgusting!" he declared. He tried kicking the animal.
Colonel Blake tried not to laugh. "Yar, she blows!" he yelled. "Chickens away!"
I had to smile. I still am. It was a wonderful ending to an otherwise stressful event. More was to come and all of it wonderful. The two injured Marines were disciplined and sent on their way. The farmer managed to recover everything and begin rebuilding. Best of all, Klinger was going to be given an award for his bravery in combat.
Colonel Blake was creating a new medal, just meant for the camp personnel. It was to be named "The Purple Chicken". It was for bravery of the coward in the face of adversary, but the person must have lost much. Klinger may be quick on his heels, but he ripped his nylons stockings, broke a heel and ripped the seams of the dress he was wearing. It was devastating for him.
It was a good price to pay for those chickens, though. It was a blessing in disguise. Klinger looked forward to the replacement items. At least he will receive mail sometime in the next few months.