Tin Fiddle


Tonight's ambush patrol was to be unlike any other.  Tonight we moved into the age of high tech combat!

We were to test a new device - a motion detector.  It was a shiny metal cylinder about two inches across and ten inches long.  A thin wire antenna projected from the top.  Accompanying this gadget was a twelve-inch black box containing the controls.   The detector was designed to catch slight ground vibrations - the footsteps of enemy soldiers moving nearby.  The control panel emitted a "beep-beep" sound whenever the device registered movement.  The beeps sounded faster and closer together as the movement came closer to the transmitter.

We left Emory before dark and moved to our assigned ambush location.  When we reached the site we dug a hole and buried the metal cylinder right up to its scrawny little antenna.  Then we backed away about a hundred meters to settle into our ambush formation.  Carrying the company radio, I lay down next to the captain and the "black box".

Half an hour after setting up, the box gave off its first beep!  Slowly at first, and then faster, one beep followed another.  We quickly concluded that Charlie was out there, and moving towards us.  Perhaps the enemy had even seen us plant the device, and was now sneaking up on us.  Word passed down the line - "Wake up, get ready!"  Muffled rattles of equipment sounded up and down the length of the ambush as men awakened and rolled over.  Rifles sprang into position on the low rice dike we were hiding behind.  The beeping continued, faster and faster, and then, suddenly, it stopped!  You could have cut the tension with a knife.  We felt sure the enemy was out there, close by, waiting.  Perhaps they had even found and silenced the detector.

For half an hour all was silent.  Our starlight scopes revealed nothing.   Slowly we began to relax.  One by one, the men not on watch went back to sleep.  Then the box started again.  Beep...pause...beep.  Then faster and more insistent.  Beep...Beep. BeepBeep!  Charlie was certainly coming right at us this time.  Word went down the line.  Rifles rattled.  Should we give away our position by firing a flare?  Not yet, hold on just a bit longer...   Then the beeps stopped again.  Again there was a long silence.   Occasionally another single beep.  Then more silence.  The suspense was unnerving.  We were getting haggard waiting, and wondering what it all meant.

But the meaning was beginning to dawn on us.  The machine was a piece of junk, a tin fiddle.  The evening breeze was probably vibrating the antenna and causing it to send the signals.  Perhaps it hadn't been buried properly.  Or perhaps it was not properly calibrated.  But it didn't get a second chance with us.  The next morning we dug the contraption up and returned it to its owners.  Only one thing might have suited us more.  We'd have liked to leave the gadget right there so Charlie could find it and spend the same kind of night we just had.  That would have helped our cause considerably.


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Tin Fiddle:  Tales Of A War Far Away
Copyright 1995 Kirk S. Ramsey
Last modified: March 02, 1995