When Memorial Day arrives, I think of my dad and his stories of WWII. He didn’t tell me many until the last days of his life, but I have a collection of them in my head and remembering them is a way for me to remember him and celebrate him along with the others who’ve fought for our freedom.
The Goose and Black Coffee is one of my favorites, so I’m sharing it here today for my dad and all those others. Most of what I’m sharing is correct, but this is a story from an old memory, passed on to me some years ago and from sketchy notes in his photo album. The essence of the story is the best I can do.
France May, 1944
It was a gray day and the four dogfaces were tired and cold, in need of a place to sleep out of the weather. Their stomachs growled for something to eat. As they drove down a country road, they spotted a spiral of smoke. There was nothing unusual in seeing smoke, but even from a distance it didn’t look like a house was on fire. And it wasn’t a field. As they came nearer, they saw that it was a fireplace. That meant they might find something to eat and a place to take shelter before joining up with their unit. They were recon, so they often were ahead of the others and more frequently across enemy lines than behind them.
At the farmhouse gate, they pulled their Jeep to a stop. This place had escaped the bombs. The barn was still standing, and one lonely goose wandered out, then flapped its way around the side of the house, which was also untouched by the war. They might have driven off, my dad said, but they couldn’t resist the aroma of freshly brewed coffee coming from that house.
When they entered the kitchen, it was clear that the family had been there moments before my dad and the others got out of the Jeep. They poured themselves some coffee, and as my dad recalled, he’d never tasted anything quite a wonderful.
Now their stomachs really cried out for something to eat and that goose was out there and this might be the last real meal any of the men would have for weeks. The goose gave its life for the U.S. Army that day, and my dad, who was always handy in the kitchen, seasoned it and put it into the oven. Now all they had to do was wait. They were dry. They were warm for the first time in weeks. They’d soon have enough goose to last until D-Day, they joked.
They kicked back and savored the scent of sizzling goose and were debating about a quick nap when the bombs started raining down on them. Like my dad said, “We were not leaving that goose or that coffee behind.”
They grabbed the partially cooked goose from the oven, the coffee from the stove and jumped into the Jeep. With the goose and coffee secured between two of them in the back, they drove off, barely escaping the bombs.
It took them three days to find another house with a workable stove and oven, but when they did, they also found several unbroken bottles of wine. They stuffed that goose back into the oven, reheated the coffee and uncorked a little wine–maybe a lot of wine.
Above this picture my dad wrote, “Photo below brings back memories. Had a goose in oven of home with all veggies and big post of coffee going. 10 minutes after photo we were under heavy fire. Carried that goose for 3 days with that coffee before we could do it justice.”
|Dad’s looking kind of serious second from the left. Not the best shot of him.|
Here’s the “Recon Fox” that Disney presented to the 93rd Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized that my dad was part of. I love looking through his collection of photos and notes. I find something I didn’t know about each time.
Quote of the Week: “A man’s country is not a certain area of land, of mountains, rivers and woods, it is a principle and patriotism is loyalty to that principle.” George William Curtis