"It must be like putting on a jockstrap," she says, looking up from the newspaper.
"Maybe," I say, closing the sports page. "What are you talking about?"
"Putting on a military uniform. It must be like putting on a jockstrap. It must cause them
to blow fuses inside their heads."
"Wait a minute," I say. "I've worn jockstraps. I wore a military uniform for nearly two
years. I don't remember anything going on inside my head."
"I suppose not," she says. "Anyway, how else would you explain this?"
She points to a headline: "National Guard jets crash in mid-air: S.D. editor parachutes
with pilots to safety."
It is about this editor of the Sioux Falls newspaper who wrote that the South Dakota Air
National Guard's close-formation flights over populated areas might be dangerous. To show
him how safe it was, the Guard took him up to go through some of the maneuvers in a two-
seater jet. It collided with another jet and both pilots and the editor had to eject over
"Well," I say, "that doesn't mean they blew any mental fuses. That's just part of the price we
pay to stem the Red Tide. Defending freedom's a dangerous game. I remember once when I
was stationed in Germany back in '56"
"Stop," she says. "You aren't going to tell the story again about how you drank too much
beer in Munich and got on a train to Czechoslovakia, are you?"
"It was a plot," I say. "Commie agents were all over Munich. They'd trick us into drinking
their doctored-up beer, cunningly disguised to look a little like Coors, then they'd station
themselves in the Bahnhof and point us to trains headed for the Iron Curtain."
"Uh huh," she says. "But you foiled them when you woke up one stop short of the Czech
border. You've told it before."
"Maybe I have," I say, "but waking up one stop short of the Czech border is hardly what
you'd expect from someone with a blown fuse."
"Then what's your explanation for this South Dakota thing?" she asks. "They
set out to demonstrate safety and they end up with the demonstratee in the hospital and $6
million worth of jet fighter scattered over four square miles of soybeans in another state."
"Don't worry," I say. "This is the military. Mistakes were made, but changes will result,
and it will all be in passive voice."
"No changes according to the A.P.," she says, reading from the paper again. "The executive
officer said 'I don't anticipate and am not aware of any reason why it should change the way
the program's administered.' I think that's militarese for denying mistakes were made."
The Truth, Mainly
"Well," I say, "I bet the pilots of the two jets are in deep doo-doo."
She says they aren't. The executive officer said that neither would be disciplined and both
would continue to fly for the Guard.
"They're probably not bad pilots normally," she says. "They both fly for commercial air
lines. That's what I mean when I say they blow fuses when they go military. They put on
those coveralls with all the little pockets and get into those jet fighters and they think they're
Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun.' And you don't really believe that executive officer talks like that
when he's not playing war, do you?"
"So what are you saying? That the military dumbs us down just because we start saluting
and saying yessir and following orders like mindless robots?"
"It would explain a lot," she says, "like the strategy of destroying things in order to save
"And tell me again," I say, "what all that's got to do with jockstraps." I have a feeling I
sound like a straight man.
"Same process," she says. "Put a Nobel Prize winner in a jockstrap and he says 'Heybabe
heybabe heybabe' and goes out to win one for the Gipper. Probably 90 percent of his
synapses blow out. And the process must create some kind of awful magnetic field. Look at
what it does to fans and coaches and sports announcers. They probably lose 95 percent."
"You know what?" I say. "You're un-American. You're subversive. I suppose you think it
was silly the way we stood tall in Munich back in '56 when the Red Horde was doctoring the
beer and threatening to overrun the gridirons and infields and beautiful rolling country club
fairways of the Free World."
"There you go," she says, "talking funny and standing straight. Is your underwear too
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.