Read THE FLIGHT OF "FATHER TIME" of Bamboo Tales , free online book, by Ira L. Reeves, on

A Case of Mistaken Identity.

Captain C. was what soldiers call a “fussy” officer. He was constantly prying into matters that concerned him but little, and wasted his energies in performing duties usually within the province of a corporal. In fact, he would march a “set of fours” to dinner. In a fight, however, his soul enlarged, and he was ever to be found at the front directing his men, and doing much to atone for sins committed during less exciting moments. Always in the van, his long, gray whiskers gently flowing in the breezes, his sword drawn and pointing toward the enemy, suggested to the men the pictures they had seen in almanacs of “Father Time”; and when speaking of him among themselves, he had no other name.

In August, 1899, his company was at Angeles, in Luzon, and was entrenching on the outskirts, for the pesky little “niggers” were constantly threatening and frequently attacking the place.

The Quartermaster Department hired a lot of Macebebes, who had offered their services, to do the harder part of the work of trench-digging, for the men were exhausted by an arduous and exacting campaign.

One bright morning about two hundred of these laborers were put to work a short distance to the front of the trenches under construction, to cut away a dense growth of cane, and open up a field of fire toward the enemy. The faithful fellows jumped into the work with a vim seldom seen in that country, slashing to the right and left with bolos, machetes, knives, hoes, scythes, and a variety of other edged implements, felling the large cane stalks with great rapidity.

“Father Time’s” company was just in rear of them, with rifle and belt, ready to protect them from the insurgents, who hated a Macebebe even worse than a despised Americano.

The usual activity in the cane-field was soon discovered by the festive little rebels, who promptly proceeded to pour volleys into the place where the cane was so mysteriously disappearing. The unarmed Macebebes stood their ground for a moment, but when the Mauser bullets came whistling uncomfortably close, and one of them had been slightly hit, they could stand it no longer, but, with an unearthly yell of fright, they broke for the rear like a herd of stampeded cattle. A regular race of mad men.

When the firing began, the soldiers threw themselves upon the ground as flat as pancakes. The Captain was busy writing in a nipa palm hut a few hundred yards in rear. He rapidly buckled on his equipment and “took up the double time” to join his men. As he neared the trenches he raised his head to look for his company. Not a soldier was in sight. As he stood in wonderment it seemed that the gates of the infernal regions were standing ajar and the inmates escaping toward him. Two hundred black devils, every imp of them screaming and yelling at each leap forward, were coming for him, armed with bolos and other death-dealing weapons, to mince him in a thousand pieces. He knew his men had been massacred to a man. He alone remained to face this mass of uncivilized warriors eager for every drop of his blood.

No general ever more quickly decided upon a definite maneuver, or put one into execution with a more fixed determination than this veteran officer, hero of three wars, decided to decrease the distance between himself and the main body of his regiment in town. Two miles over muddy roads and rice “paddies” is not an easy march for a young man, but when a valiant gentleman of sixty summers covers the distance at a forced-march gait, without a halt, a record has been broken.

When “Father Time” learned that not a man of his company had been hurt, he was pleased; but the news that he had mistaken a lot of Macebebes, hopelessly stampeded, for a blood-thirsty enemy, had to be broken to him gently by the Colonel.