We lived in Germany for a few years. That sounds so cool, but if you’re in the Air Force it’s really no biggie. We were stationed at Hahn Airbase in the Hunsruck. That’s a province in Germany that literally means “Dog’s Back”. Mainly farmland framed with really steep hills. Acres of barley, hops and wheat that goes into making that yummy German Beer.
So one day I was cheerfully playing with my F-16 when the Expeditor drives up. An Expeditor expedites stuff. Okay, he really drives back and forth making sure things get done. Jets get fixed, launched, recovered. Keeps track of who is working where. So anyway, John (the Expeditor) drives up to me and yells “GO HOME!!”
I start packing up my tools and he shouts again (John never yells), “WE’LL GET THAT. GO HOME NOW!!!” Okay, okay. I get into the truck. He drives me directly to my car. I drive home.
We lived in off base housing in the village Rhaunen, about 20 klicks away. (that’s the cool way to say kilometers, no it’s not misspelled). This gave me time to wonder what the big deal is. I’m betting that the wife has another migraine and needs to go to the E.R. As I neared Rhaunen, I saw a pall of black smoke coming out of our little valley.
“Oh Shit”, I thought, “our apartment caught fire.”
When I got to the housing area I counted three German Fire Companies and the Air Force one. A quick glance to see our apartment building was unscathed, WTH? White smoke and steam filled the air and before I could park, my wife walked up to the car.
“Brian won’t talk to any one until he talks to you. That’s what he said. Don’t be mad at him”.
Okay, seriously, what the fuck is going on?
There was Brian (eight years old, or so) standing, arms crossed with a half a dozen firemen standing with him. There were also the Air Force Security Police and German Polizei (police). He starts talking but the Security Policeman suggests we take the conversation somewhere else.
In my living room, the Security Police read me MY rights. I’m thinking “Okay, but what the hell is going on?” At this point the wife thinks that I’m in trouble. Well, I am. I’m responsible for the action of my “Dependents” (Militaryspeak for “family”). That out of the way I turn to Brian. “Okay. What happened?”
He says that he was playing with some boys. They had matches and were taking turns seeing how long they could hold a burning match. He dropped his and the wheat field caught fire. Oh yeah the four acres of smoking wreckage right outside. Gotcha. The Security Police thanks me for my “statement” and advised me to get a German Lawyer.
I get a German lawyer, Herr Rhaunen. I have always thought that was cool. Herr Rhaunen who lives in Rhaunen. Yeah, his family had lived in the valley since the Middle Ages and got to name the village. Rechtsanwahlter is German for lawyer. A direct translation is “He who sees the Truth, or Right.” I pay him a hundred Marks to have him suggest we talk to the farmer. I don’t get to talk to him, Lawyer Rhaunen goes and talks to him. It turns out that the field had already been harvested and the farmer was going to burn it anyway. Nothing was damaged, so the farmer thanked me for helping out.
That was Brian’s story and he stuck to it. Until 1998, when Brian came to see me in Las Vegas. Apparently it wasn’t the Truth, the Whole Truth and nothing but The Truth. It seems that Brian took the Rap for his Little Brother. Dear….Sweet…Little…..Timmy was the criminal. Yeah there were matches. Yeah there were boys from the neighborhood. Yeah, Brian was there too. Yeah they were playing “hold the match until it burns the shit out your finger”. But it was Timmy. Dear….Sweet…Little …Timmy who wielded the can of OFF insect repellant like a flame thrower. Which got out hand…literally and was dropped in that wonderfully harvested field of wheat.