Monday, 29th May 2023 - 15:27:45 pm

Kincaid's reason for ending the staged fights was selfish. He didn't want to fight anyone in the ring himself. If he hadn't made the rule against fighting it was inevitable that someone would challenge him. He didn't want to be anyone's dancing monkey.

The effect of the platoon was considerable. It was as if they had come out from under a dark cloud. For the first time there was laughter and horseplay in the barrack.

Nothing Sergeant Walker said or did would make them fight.

"Are you afraid on him, boy?"

"No, Sergeant!"

"Then why don't you want to fight him?"

"He's my buddy, Sergeant! A man doesn't fight his buddies."

The drill sergeant found out about Kincaid's rule. There wasn't much he could do about it. Kincaid had gone back into his silent shell which made it difficult for anyone to approach him. Since the incident in the barrack, the sergeant gave him a wide berth anyway. He had found out about Kincaid's trigger temper. He would take no chances of having a second confrontation.

The army base was in the middle of wide open country. Kincaid took advantage of the passes he was given to explore the surrounding area on horseback. It was his first experience with horses and he took to it well. He didn't develop any sentimentality about the horse. It was an animal with a job to do and he saw to it that the animal did its job. He realized immediately the arrangement mankind had worked out with the horse. Its usefulness kept it from being eaten until it was no longer useful.

He did not take as well to weapons. At the firing range it was frustrating to him to have the weapon lined in perfectly on the target and yet to miss the center. The erratic cluster of holes in the target indicated that it was not the fault of the weapon. The harder he tried the worse his results became.

There was no problem in qualifying. He was shooting well enough to qualify as "Marksman" which was the lowest level. But shooting well enough to satisfy the Army and shooting well enough to satisfy himself were two different things.

He thought about the problem when he woke up in the morning. He thought about it when eating. He thought about it during his spare time. He thought about it before going to sleep at night. His instincts told him that his life depended on solving this problem.

Words from the instructors drummed through his head:

"Squeeze the trigger. Caress it. A gentle pressure, that's all it takes. When the round goes off, it should be a surprise to you. Don't anticipate it."

He knew that was what he was unable to do. What was the solution? How could he learn to relax on the firing range?

He tried something as he was trying to get to sleep one night. He imagined himself lining up the sights of a rifle on a target. He forced himself to relax his entire body as he concentrated on the center of the target. Sleep came soon after.

Every night after that he went to sleep the same way, his body totally relaxed, his mind zeroing in imaginary sights on the center of imaginary targets. He was later to learn that he was unknowingly experimenting in self-hypnotism.

The experiment worked. The next time he was on the rifle range he qualified as a "sharpshooter." He had learned to relax. Before training was over, Kincaid qualified as an "expert," the highest classification, on three different weapons.

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