What is The Yelling Tree?
Before I joined The U.S. Navy, I enlisted in the U.S. Army reserves. I took my basic training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During which, I did not get along with one of my drill instructors. He would ride my ass every chance he got. By the end of my basic training, he punched me square in the face. I never wanted to fight someone more than I wanted to fight him. He could see it in my eyes. Nose to nose when I got back up to my feet, he asked me, “Do you want to take a swing at me Private Dickhead?” (That was his pet name for me)
I said nothing. Letting only the look on my face and my heavy breathing be my only answer.
He knew me well. “You’ll be staying on here at Fort Dix after graduation for your LWVPGO training, correct?” I remained silent. “Perhaps you would like to take a shot at me in the boxing ring?”
Now I had something to say. “It’s a deal.”
The last few weeks of boot-camp passed. Graduation weekend came and went. I spent mine in New York City, visiting the sloth shacks. (Houses of ill repute) With women without names.
Shortly after, a trip home for a week before my trade training would begin.
All the while, waiting for the day of his and my boxing match. I was in great shape. A six pack across my abs, contempt in my heart for this tiny man of 5 feet and maybe 5 inches tall. Just a silly little Mexican bean. That was how I thought of him. He did nothing through my basic training but put me down and push me to the edge of my humanity at every fucking turn.
I wanted to pummel him into unconsciousness.
Finally, my return to Fort Dix had arrived. All of the details were discussed that first week as he remained my “Sergeant” during the next phase of my military career. Beating him silly was my only objective.
The weekend came as promised. I was in the gym on the base, looking over from my corner at him. Two of my best friends with me, giving me instructions. He was alone. He was looking up at me as we met in the center of the ring, all 6 feet and 3 inches of me. He ordered one of my friends to ring the proverbial bell.
The next thing I know, I was awaken with some smelling salt. The little shit knocked me out faster than lightning. Who would have thought? He was standing there over me offering a hand of assistance. “I see you didn’t listen to a Goddamn thing I tried to teach your dumb-ass, did you?” He scorned.
I wobbled against the ropes of the ring.
He stood in front of me, looking up. “You didn’t clear your mind or your soul. You allowed your anger to be your guide instead of your wits. Your intelligence. Your training.” He then poked me on the center of my forehead. “Think, Private Dickhead, think! Think back to bivouac when I had you standing in front of that tree one dark morning, do you recall?”
“Yes.” I spoke gingerly.
He grinned. “What did I tell you?”
I reflected. “You told me to stand in front of a tree and yell at it for thirty minutes. To get all of my anger out so that I could then think more clearly and plan an attack against the enemy.”
“And did you do that with me?” He questioned.
I shook my head. “No.”
He grinned again, the little shit. “This is why I kicked your ass today. You fought with emotion, I fought with my wits. I used your own aggression against you. Remember, when you go into a battle, don’t get personal. Use the brain the good Lord gave you. Otherwise, you will die for sure, understand?”
Suddenly, I realized why he was so hard on me. He was trying to save my life should I be sent to fight a war in defense of my country. “The Yelling Tree.” I whispered.
He grinned again, the little shit. “Yes, the yelling tree. For the rest of your life, before you do something in the heat of the moment, go find a tree to yell at and get it out of your system. Then and only then will you be able to think rationally enough to solve any and all problems. Clear your mind. Clear your soul. Clear your emotions.”
I nodded. “I get it now, drill sergeant.”
“Good.” He smiled, patting me on the back. “Let’s go get a beer. You’re buying.”
Even to this day, when things get to be too much and everything I feel I kept bottled up until it feels like I am just going to erupt, instead of yelling at people, I go find a secluded tree, stand before it and … get it all out.
This is … The Yelling Tree.