An evening conversation: It’s safe, really

By Stephen Cameron

My fiancé is in town for an extended visit, which naturally knocks daily life a bit upside down.

First night…

“Oh, my God! Someone’s shooting in the parking lot.”

No, dear.

Those are machine guns and artillery shells, but they’re way over at Fort Riley.

“Are you kidding? The walls are shaking. I think the bedroom window is broken!”

No, sweetie, it’s really pretty routine. It’s a military base, you know, and they have to practice.

“You must be joking. Those are bombs. They could knock down old buildings in Salina from there.”

After I calmed her down, it occurred to me that an almost constant barrage from the fort might be a bit disconcerting to newcomers on the western side of Manhattan.

For a visitor like Ms. Melissa, it probably feels like being trapped in a Syrian hotel room.

The racket startled me, too, when I moved in. Nothing happened for a couple of nights and then…


I recall flying straight upwards in bed and thinking maybe the water heater had exploded.

Once you shake away the fog of sleep, though, it comes back: Ah, yes…the troops at Fort Riley are having a light workout.

It’s funny because now I don’t even notice it.

The same thing happened when I was in the Air Force. Jet engines were revved up in the maintenance area day and night. If you can’t force your mind to block it out, you’d never sleep.

So I did, somehow.

And to this day, years later, I can’t hear planes. They just zoom past, somewhere in my subconscious mind, and I’m totally unaware of it.

Oddly, I don’t hear trains or highway traffic now, either – not in a way that either one would disturb my sleep.

Melissa thinks I’m either deaf or hypnotized. Her idea of really distracting noise is someone kicking a soccer ball about three miles away.

Of course, I’ve tried explaining natural human adaptation to her, dismissing the booms and rat-tat-tats that cause her to scream and dive to the floor every few minutes – while reasoning that after a night or two punctuated by moments of sheer terror, she’ll forget the heavy artillery.

Machine-gun fire will become a lullaby.

She’s, um…not buying it.

In fact, she announced that if she really wanted to fight the Taliban by herself, she’d head for Afghanistan.

My immediate plan is to buy her a tiny headset and let her fall asleep listening to Josh Groban…

(To each her own, but personally, I’d rather listen to a full night of bazooka fire.)

Over the weekend, I think I’ll prove my theory that the Fort Riley artillery eventually turns into our own version of elevator music.

I’ll point out all the nice houses on west side of town, and ask gently: “Do you think all these people would pay hard-earned money for homes where they couldn’t sleep? Where they’d have to outfit their kids in battle helmets?

“Of course not.”

Wish me luck, because it’s kind of important that Melissa likes it here.

And with all the respect in the world for folks in Pott County, I’d rather not be limited to house-shopping in Wamego.

Or Paxico.

Or Topeka.

Honey, try these fuzzy ear muffs.

They’re really cute.

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