Germany has a reputation for hosting many beautiful, lush forests… and I can attest to that being true. At least it was when I lived there for a few years some three plus decades ago. My family and I roamed much of Germany taking in the sites during that time (well, my brother and I were of course captive to my parents’ whims in that– but I’m glad they took us along) — castles, restaurants, amusement parks, and the forests. And there were some wonderful forested areas that surrounded the Army base that we lived on– and one particular area that was very near the apartment complex that my family lived in. This wooded area was liberally populated by huge majestic oak trees– and these oaks yielded TONS of acorns. I was fascinated by these big, shiny nuts. I was convinced at the time that by grinding them up and adding water and yeast that I could make some wonderful acorn pancakes. I would beg my mother to let me undertake the experiment that I was sure would result in the world’s tastiest pancakes– but her response was always “Don’t you know how horrible that would taste? You can’t make pancakes out of acorns!” I’ve never, to this day, tried to follow through on that youthful impulse. I suppose that’s because I’m sure my mother was right.

Those big, shiny acorns also served another purpose for the base kids (at least those in my neighborhood): ammunition. Being surrounded by local towns, it was only natural that we would be “invaded” from time to time by local German kids, curious to see what we Americans were like. I think there was a mix of curiosity and some residual resentment (passed on to the kids by their parents) left over from WORLD WAR II, even though this was around 30 years after the end of that conflict. My father tells me of an incident at a parade he took my younger brother to in which he asked a German man with his son on his shoulders if he could move aside slightly so that my brother could see the parade, and the man turned on him and said “Just because you Americans won the war doesn’t mean you own this country or our people…!” So there was a bit of that going on– and when we would get word that there were German kids in the woods in our neighborhood, the call would go out to meet them on the “field of battle”. We had tons of acorns stashed in various locations for just such contingencies. So, I would grab the 7th Cavalry flag I had made with my budding artistic abilities (I was at the time enamored of General George Armstrong Custer and his mounted Cavalry, having just learned of them in my history books), and meet my fellow “soldiers” to repel the dread invaders. It was really more of a game, though– because we would meet the German kids and make sure there were ground rules (the German kids could speak English, whereas we ourselves could not speak a word of German. That’s the norm for so many Americans– we don’t feel the need to learn foreign languages, while most of the rest of the world is multi-lingual), chief among them that there would be no hurling acorns at each others faces. Even as little kids, we knew we didn’t want anyone’s eye’s knocked out by a high-velocity nut. Inevitably, because of our stashed arsenal, we would win the day, driving back the local kids with overwhelming force of acorn. And fun was had by all, I think– although there were some shouts from the German kids such as “Americans go home!” at such times. Maybe it was the heat of battle.

I drew a Civil War era cap on the head of the lead kid (my idealized version of myself as a child, natch). Now whether I actually had such a hat, or it’s just my mind’s eye creating that for my memories I don’t know. I’ll have to ask my mother about that.

And if she remembers me begging her to let me make acorn pancakes.


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