At dawn, the first artillery rounds hit. All Phelps could hear, as he clung against the dirt wall, were explosions, shouts and orders. It was total chaos for the next hour, and then silence. The silence was the worst part, because you had to imagine what would happen next. “Listen,” whispered Phelps. “I can hear the rattle of loose equipment coming our way.”
“Here they come!!” cried an officer. At that moment, all their machine guns opened up and men all along the trenches started screaming.
The sun was warm and the slight breeze felt wonderful. Phelps had been walking along the dirt road for a while now, but, enjoyed every step of the way. The old road looked like maybe it had been a wagon route at one time, but there were no signs of anything but foot traffic now. Phelps walked along looking out over rolling grass pastures, small ponds and groves of shade trees. Once in awhile he picked up the soft fragrance of a fruit orchard. “Hello.” Phelps turned around and faced a young boy, maybe 14 or 15 years old. He had light blond hair, very fair skin and a smile that was wider than his face.
“Hello,” replied Phelps.
“My name ist Muller,” said the blond youth.
Phelps looked him over and then smiled when he replied. “I’m Phelps.” Looking behind Muller he could see a stretch of the road that was maybe a half mile long before it disappeared over a rise. There were nearly a hundred boys walking along the road. Some walked by themselves while others walked and talked in small groups. They were all close to the same age as Muller and himself….all young teens.
“Is nice day, ya?” said Muller.
“Yeah, very nice.” Phelps replied. “Where you from, Muller?”
Muller thought for a long moment. “I am not so sure,” he answered. “I remember such wonderful forest und cold deep lakes und beautiful mountains mit snow tops that melted down to der trout rivers every spring, but, das is all. Und you?”
“Corn fields, grass meadows that went on for miles and the greatest trout streams in the world,” Phelps smiled. He then scratched his head and said, “But, beyond that….nothing else.” The two boys walked on together and chatted about trout fishing and the proper way to cook fish over a camp fire.”
“You must always bury potatoes in der ground under das wood fire und then use river reeds to mount der fish on and then roast over fire,” Instructed Muller.
“No, my friend,” corrected, Phelps. “First, you toss in a few taters on the coals, and then get an old iron skillet and render off some fatback in it and then fry up the trout in the hot pork grease. Then row the cooked taters out of the ashes and split them open and pour the left over grease over them. Now that’s good eating!”
Muller laughed as they walked along. “As you, I have great love of nature und good food.”
As the pair walked, they could see others sitting under the shade of apple trees while enjoying the ripe fruit, while others waded and splashed in the cool water of shallow creeks. Ahead they could see an old wooden bridge that crossed over a wide fast moving stream. Coming to the bridge they looked down along the bank of the stream and saw dozens of boys using willow branches and string for fishing. As they watched, several of the boys caught some large trout while the others cheered them on. Phelps slapped Muller on the back and said, “This is where we belong! Come on, my friend, and let me teach you the right way to fish!” Together, the two new friends ran down to the bank to find their own willow branches. Later, as they stood knee deep in the water fishing, Phelps looked over at Muller and grinned, “Man, you just can’t beat this. It’s like heaven.”