“‘Rats!’ said McBane”
By: Charles L. Fontenay
Guadalcanal, at the time I was there, was a tropical paradise of sticky heat, coconuts, and mud, land crabs and Japanese bombers that drove us to the fox holes every night or so…and rats. Our contingent of military novices was housed in tents at Lunga Beach, and the rats looked in our tents as the nightly equivalent of Disney Land.
Some of these rats were as big as your average house cat, and they would climb the ropes and dance on the tent all night. They were also fond of its interiorthe ground floor, literallyand we were careful to tuck up the blankets on our coats at night, lest we find ourselves with unwanted bedfellows. The cot on which we kept our luggage also was kept free of any dangling participles that the rats might climb.
The rats were not afraid of us mere humans. One night when I was writing a letter on an upturned box, I looked up to see one seated on its haunches, surveying me. I squashed it under one of my big GI shoes. In the tent with me were a closely knit trio: mustachioed McBane, Fuad Hanna, who was the image of a classical Egyptian and an inveterate gambler, and Lee Jones. They were jokers on occasion, and they’d pulled something on me (I forget what) that definitely called for revenge.
Fortune provided the PX received a supply of cheese niblets, and I stocked up on them. One evening when the trio had gone to one of the island’s outdoor movies, I prepared a proper reception for my first target, McBane, whose cot was across the tent from mine.
I dropped a couple of towels from the baggage cot to the groundon its outside edge, where they were invisible. I ran a towel across the space between the baggage cot and McBane’s cot. Then I sprinkled cheese niblets liberally on the baggage cot and on McBane’s cot, under his blankets.
Shortly after our happy delegation returned from their movie, we all extinguished our lanterns and went to sleep. At least, I did. I was awakened some time later by an unidentifiable noise, and for some intuitive reason, sitting up, I shone my flashlight across the tent.
McBane was sitting up on his cot, hugging his knees, an expression of utter dismay on his face.
“What’s the matter, Mac?” I asked. “Can’t you get to sleep?”
“It’s the rats!” he informed me in a woebegone tone. “How the hell they got up on my cot, I don’t know, but they’ve been running all over meall over my face. And their little feet are cold!”
Mark up one notch in the scheme of revenge. I went on back to sleep, and when I awoke the next morning, poor McBane was cramped up in the jeep outside the tent. He’d slept there all night to keep away from the rats.
Later when we moved to floored and screened tents across the road from Henderson Field, I worked out a plan to get my second victim, Lee Jones. Unfortunately, Hannaand McBanecaught that one in the neck. But that’s another story.