Behold, A Royal Army
of GoldBrickers

copyright 2008
by
Lin Stone

I have always envied the men that could march into the infirmary and come out with enough pills to sell.  How they did it was beyond me.  Maybe it's because I'm last in line, or something equally discriminatory, I decided. 

You could find the sellers by sneaking off to the PX.  They'd be sitting there drinking coffee right up to the minute officers were about to show up to make brownie points by fingering any goldbrickers they caught drinking coffee at the PX after sick call.

*

It isn't like I grew up without learning that life is unfair.  A kid named Ricky was my first indicator.  We turned out for PE one day and he has this swell looking cast on.  The coach allowed as how Ricky had a cast on his arm he could be the coach for that session, and the coach headed for the dining room just like he'd been an officer in the Army. 

Ricky was strutting around like a king giving orders to his yeomen on the parade field.  You'd think he'd never been the center of attention before in his whole life. 

We chose up sides to play football and it soon became obvious that any time a penalty had to be called, Ricky decided in favor of his friends.  I quit and walked off.  Ricky called after me: "You gotta keep playing!"  I shook my head and kept walking.  "If I had a cast like that on MY arm I wouldn't play favorites for MY friends."

When the time came that I cut my finger off I had decided that playing favorites with the girls was very fair.  But I can honestly say I wasn't partial to any one of them.  Each set of goo-goo eyes got an equal chance to admire the brevity of my bandage.  Where does fame flee to as the mists of time swallow up our best little hurties?

When I tore a chunk of meat out of my leg big enough and deep enough to lose a dollar bill in the hole it was an old horse doctor that sewed me up.  He took a good swig of whiskey and geared up for the battle.  "You hold him down and I'll start stitching."

"Aren't you going to give him something to deaden the pain?" Daddy asked.

The doctor was incredulous.  "Are you PAYING for this?"

When was the last time you could get a doctor to talk to you in person for just $50?  This doctor chattered throughout the entire operation and even threw in a pair of crutches for just $50  Of course he just pinched the hole together on the surface and sewed it shut; done in less than twenty minutes -- but he was a fast talker and wanted to be done before he ran out of something to say. 

Now that I think of it, he was talking so fast he sent me home without a pain pill one.  Like I said, I can go in with my leg tore half off and not get a pain pill pushed my way.  Sometimes it just ain't worth the effort.  This was one of those times.  I was on those crutches for two months and there wasn't a set of goo-goo eyes within thirty miles of me.

There's some people can milk a hurtie like that for two years but I figured out early on that any time you concentrate on puckering up for sympathy you cut yourself out of half a year of adventure.  I didn't get to climb a mountain, break a horse, butcher a steer, or catch a Gila Monster until I got plumb shut of them crutches.

Ignoring pain was fairly common where I grew up.  I took one cowboy in with a wire cable snapped into his arm.  We'd had to hammer both ends off to get him loose.  That same horse doctor that had treated my leg sliced the muscle open and dug the cable out, then went to digging for pieces.  He didn't get a pain pill sent home with him either, and the cowboy had refused to have the arm deadened as that cost extra.  About the staunchest set of nerves I've ever seen was my cousin Ray's display.  He was burnishing up a piece of steel on the grinder when the wire wheel came apart and sent splinters of steel straight into his eye ball.  He didn't even have time to blink.  After hauling him into the doctor's office I watched him stare straight  ahead while the doctor searched for the splinters with a magnet, and yanked them out one by one.  No one mentioned a pain pill that time either. 

So, it was kind of a culture shock for me when I went into the service where the REAL MEN were, and discovered a thriving industry streaming to the first aid station.  How anybody could talk their way into so many pills was beyond me.

 The only thing worse than one of the fakers hogging all the dispensations being dispensed from the medical dispensary was to go charging up a hill and see a faker being hauled down the hill by a lung-laboring buddy "I'm taking him down to the medics, sir -- PUFF!  PUFF!"  They even gave a medal to one of those sturdy boys shagging it to safety.  Somebody said he had fallen down and shattered the arm of the faker for real.  Serves them right, is my opinion.

I only had one chance to be a hero.  With our weapons in hand we were leaping out of a small truck, barely three foot to the ground, max.  My buddy was just sitting there in front of me when I landed and I had to go around him.  "Come on, Smitty" I shouted.  Then I realized his rifle barrel had went in under his jaw and came out the side of his head.  He looked kind of dazed when he glanced reproachfully at me.  Realizing my mistake made me too uncomfortable to turn around and haul my buddy down to the dispensary for his two token APC pain pills.

It wasn't until much, much later in life, when I learned there were also professionals in our prison systems that came away from doctor visits with lots of loot to sell that I finally began to suspect there was a system to their procurement patterns.  All of these guys were going in on the WAVES.

Confirmation came to me personally shortly after I'd turned forty.  I'd been driving a tractor without a tarp on it eighteen hours a day in freezing weather and just before Christmas I came down too sick to get out the door.  I wasn't expecting much when they hustled me into the doctor's office.  He took one look and said: "Yeah, you've got pneumonia.  A lot of people are coming down with that this time of year."  He gave me a three day supply of pain pills and wrote out a prescription for something else.  On top of all that I got stuck with a needle and sent home with orders to rest until after the first of the year!

In my mind's eye I could look all the way back to them guys dog-trotting over to sick call with their cunning plans well laid.  Was there a rash of flu going around?  They went in groaning with flu symptoms.  Was heat prostration a burning issue when new bunkers were being built?  Their tongues were hanging out, they were so prostrated.  "Yeah, you've got it bad, there's a whole wave of that stuff going around.

Us guys with snake bite in January didn't stand a chance of being treated because we weren't coming in on the waves.  If you come up with flu symptoms in July it doesn't go down well either.  You can be sick as a dog, but it just don't count; you are not a part of the royal army of goldbrickers.

*

If you intend to make the grade you need to pay sharp attention.  In discussing this theory with a group of friends, one brought forth some corroboration.  "When I was about twenty, twenty one, I started having horrible pains in my lower back.  I insisted it was arthritis.  A dozen doctors examined me and never found a thing wrong.  The one thing all of them agreed on was I did not have arthritis.  About twenty years later I moved to another state and picked out a new doctor.  After she examined me she started asking if I had any problems with my lower back because of the way I had walked in.  So I told her about my horrible pains.  What do you think it is?  Arthritis she said.  I don't have arthritis, I told her.  Oh yes, you're forty five now and that's about the age arthritis starts showing up.  Just because I had turned forty five, NOW I could have arthritis and not make anybody mad." 

Then another guy spoke up.  "You think that's bad?  I had this same set of mysterious symptoms for ten years.  My doctor couldn't say what the problem was so I went to researching the symptoms and I told him I thought it was "X" Syndrome.  No, no, it couldn't be because one of the symptoms required was that I run a slight, but definite fever.  So okay, ten years go by and every once in a while I would suggest this same syndrome again and he would smack the idea down solid.  Like I said, ten years went by and I went in complaining about those symptoms again.  Sounds like you've got "X" Syndrome he says.  Nah, I told him.  I'm never running a slight fever.  That's all right the doc tells me.  Doctors have now decided that you don't need to be running a fever to have "X" Syndrome.  I wanted to throw that doctor head first through a brick wall.  He was going to give me PERMISSION to have "X" Syndrome?  I have never stepped foot in his office again.

An old rancher spoke up next.  "I had this young man working for me get sick and sent him in to the hospital.  It was combine season but I'd call him every night and he'd tell me what tests they had run that day.  This went on for more than a week then it came up a hard rain and I took the opportunity to go see him in the hospital.  He introduced me to his nurse as his employer and first thing you know we had three doctors in there telling me what all they were doing for this young man.  By the way, they said.. What insurance carrier do you have?  Oh, I don't have any insurance I told them.  You know, that young man was released so fast he beat me home.  We never did find out what he had, but after that long a rest he was ready to go back to work anyway."

How can you make use of this?  Well, if you have some ailment no doctor can make heads nor tails of, every time the medical profession decides you do have something else, trot out those old symptoms again.  For example, I'd been having screaming flashes of pain in both my feet for several years.  Then one day I was told that I was diabetic.  Two weeks later I mention those flashes of pain in both feet and the doctor nods.  Yes, you've got neuropathy; that comes with diabetes but there is some medicine that just came out that can help you deal with neuropathy. He doesn't even look at my feet (that time)  He doesn't ask what my blood sugar readings are.. NOTHING, just dishes out the pills just  like I was a professional goldbricker.  I'll tell you what.  It's enough to make an old man want to start a new business. 

the end

Lin Stone is a professional writer, author and photographer.  On the side he maintains lists of active insurance companies.

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