www.mydfz.com > Music of Tom Paxton > (unspecified album) > Lyrics to Talking Bayonet Rap

Talking Bayonet Rap

A monologue by Tom Paxton used as an intro to his song, “Talking Vietnam Blues”

It being vacation time, I’ve been thinking a lot about a fantastic vacation I had some ten years ago at a little-known garden spot. . . Unknown even to the most adventurous travel agents. A place called Fort Riley, Kansas, where I spent eight fun-filled weeks during which time I learned to do some very interesting things.

I learned how to throw a hand grenade, how to crawl in mud under barbed wire – stuff you can always use, you know. Especially if one is planning on a college education nowadays these skills are vital. And as a matter of fact the whole thing was so thrill-packed that it was only with a couple years perspective that I was able to pick out THE big moment for me which has to be the day they marched us out onto the drill field wearing, for the first time, our full combat gear. Which was very exciting, you know, a little heavy; all the boots, and the helmets and stuff and we were a little nervous ‘cause the rumor was we were going into combat that afternoon. You know. Right there in Kansas! You know. Those of you who have been in will know how plausible such a rumor can sound even in the middle of Kansas. But no, they didn’t have that planned that day. What they did instead was line us up in two long lines facing each other and a sergeant stalked dramatically down to the end of the lines pulled himself up to his full five-foot one bellowed the immortal command, “Fix Bayonets!”

So we put ‘em on for the first time. A little clumsily. We were just learning. We had to leave the covers on too because we were just starting out. Some of the guys got very cross about that. Uh. They, uh. They’d heard about them gherkas and they wanted to draw a little blood and the sergeant said, “no, no.” They had to wait until they met, “the dirty commies.” And, as far as he knew, there were none in our company with the possible exception of those of us who’d been to college. And since, as it happened, I was THE college man in the company, I was getting nervous about that time but there is safety in obscurity and he passed me by.

Now that we had the bayonets on, he gathered us all around him in a very tightly packed heap and he got up on this platform and pulled out his bayonet which was chrome plated and began waving it back and forth. Rhythmically. Hypnotically. Some of the cretins went right under. <snoring noise> And he gave us the “History of the Bayonet”. Went right back to the Roman short sword which apparently started that whole thing off and he went into great graphic detail of how the Legionnaires used to come hacking their way through the Gauls and the Visigoths – he called them Visigoths, who was I to argue about it? – carving out an empire as it were. And when I say that he went into details of blood and gore, he left out no details. And it was very heady stuff and some of the younger guys began to get a little excited, pawing the ground <snorting noises>, hitting each other in the shoulder, “hey, hey!” And now that he had us started like a master conductor he played on our emotions and started taking us up through history - The great bayonet charges of the Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, he even got excited and rang in the Charge of the Light Brigade. It wasn’t bayonets but what the hell. And guys are now guys are now beginning to jump up and down, you know, getting very worked up and their eyes are blood-red and they’re beginning to strangle one another in excitement. Now he’s got us up to the first World War, Bayonet charges into the face of machine gun fire. Which made sense, didn’t it? You know. If you had the machine gun, I suppose it made sense.

By this time we are almost out of control and he knows it. And at the exact psychological moment he suddenly held up his bayonet again and he yelled, “What is the purpose of the bayonet?” And we all yelled, “To kill, to kill” and we killed him!

Then his replacement got up. “All right mens, dat is enough now of theory. It is time to learn de practice uh dis weapon.” And now he taught us all the little jumps that you have to make; all the little John Wayne dance steps. You know. You saw Sands of Iwo Jima. All the, the High Thrust, and the Low Thrust, and my favorite, the Butt Smash, terrible thing. More importantly we learned that in this type of quarrel, finesse is not where it’s at. No no. It isn’t Douglas Fairbanks after all. What they’re looking for is something more on the order of brute ferocity. So whatever you do with the bayonet must be accompanied with sharp animal-like cries, along this line <sample ferocious yell>. This is to frighten your enemy. It isn’t enough, they figure, to run 200 yards across an open field and wave a bayonet in his face, you gotta yell at him too, right? I can see myself in a foxhole saying, “Oh my God! Here comes someone with a bayonet. What’ll I do if he yells at me?”

It’s been a long time but I, I checked with my friends and this is, this is still going on. But one thing, one element of modern military life, uh, is, is there that was not when I was in and I’m a little bitter about it. Perhaps you’ve heard about the astonishing agricultural discoveries made by the troops in Viet Nam. It seems, it seems that there’s an herb that grows there in an abundance to boggle the western imagination. Great waving forests and jungles of nothing but pot. A fact which comes as no surprise to the natives who have been merrily blowing grass for centuries now. What happened in the modern era was the first G.I. got off the plane, was there five minutes, scored, and began a chain of events leading up to the present weird situation where we have the Viet Cong, on the one hand, stoned in the jungle, the villagers caught in the middle, swacked in self-defense, and the G.I.’s on the other hand out of their gourds up to and including the general staff, which explains a lot when you think of it. Not all highs are good highs. We know that.

When I heard this shocking story, naturally I had to quickly write a song, maintaining my traditional posture of neutrality. <throat clearing.>


Questions? Comments? Problem with this page?
You can send me email at: