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by Fred Farris
In February 1945, we the 86th Infantry Division had just driven the vaunted German panzer army back across the wide Rhine River at Cologne. My squad was ordered to search for any resistance stragglers who might be left behind down at riverfront. But the Rhine was ours, and so was its booty.
We four invincibles, Corporal Lujack, Bobby, John and I descended the stone stairs. They curved down into an ancient stone building on the bank of the surging Rhine River. I pushed the point of my machine gun against an old wooden door, opening it cautiously.
In the room, dozens of shiny bottles lay in wooden wine racks stacked up to our eyeballs. Corporal Lujack, who was from California, said it was Riesling wine vintage since that was the region of Germany we were in.
Our own vintage was only nineteen years old. We knew nothing about wine, but we were the conquerors and we deserved a victory celebration. We each grabbed a bottle, popped its cork, tipped it up and pronounced it good... After a few swigs Bobby from Georgia said he liked its bouquet.
John giggled through wet shiny lips and said, “You dumb hick, a bouquet is flowers.”
Lujack threw his bottle down and opened another. We all did likewise.
We swaggered and swigged. With every gulp we were more emboldened. We were The Infantry.
Next morning, all four warriors rushed to the latrine several times. The bottle labels, we were informed, read “Mineral Vasser” —a laxative mineral water.