Small Wars Journal

The Long Winding Trail

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The Long Winding Trail

Keith Nightingale

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Laden Grunts traversing the steep scree-laden hills

Preternaturally alert, analyzing

Cunning senses energized

Behind them, others followed

Olduvai Gorge to the Fertile Crescent to Everywhere

Anxious, alert, weapons ready

Burn-tipped spears

Obsidian blades

Leather slings

They are the survivors

As are all of us

Killers, honed and exercised

The apex predators of the Serengeti

Past Denisovans, Cro-Magnons, Neanderthals

Protecting what is dear

The survivors of evolution, procreation and action

Potential victims, vanquishing

Growing in capacity

The Plains, so forbidding and threat laden

Hungry animals and pseudo peoples

Ever anxious to kill competition and eat the results

Then, a spear, a sling, a rock in hand

Now a rifle and a radio

The brain, the ultimate weapon

Honed and expanded by negative experience

Eyes watchful, brain computing, muscles awaiting commands

Primordial exhilaration in victory

Lessons learned and imbedded

Repetitively, as a chemical and organic process

The survivors

A long winding trail

Ever more skillful in the task

The survivors

Our DNA now on display

Time and experience

Expanding capability

Survival of the fittest

Nature’s combat lessons

Hard won on the winding trail

Further, into the unseen distance

Categories: infantry

About the Author(s)

COL Nightingale is a retired Army Colonel who served two tours in Vietnam with Airborne and Ranger (American and Vietnamese) units. He commanded airborne battalions in both the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment and the 82nd Airborne Division. He later commanded both the 1/75th Rangers and the 1st Ranger Training Brigade.