CHAPTER 5 - CHIEF WHITE HALFOAT
(AnyBooksFree) CHAPTER 5 - CHIEF WHITE HALFOAT
Doc Daneeka lived in a splotched gray tent with Chief White Halfoat, whom he
feared and despised.
'I can just picture his liver,' Doc Daneeka grumbled.
'Picture my liver,' Yossarian advised him.
'There's nothing wrong with your liver.'
'That shows how much you don't know,' Yossarian bluffed, and told Doc Daneeka
about the troublesome pain in his liver that had troubled Nurse Duckett and Nurse
Cramer and all the doctors in the hospital because it wouldn't become jaundice and
wouldn't go away.
Doc Daneeka wasn't interested. 'You think you've got troubles?' he wanted to know.
'What about me? You should've been in my office the day those newlyweds
'Those newlyweds that walked into my office one day.
Didn't I ever tell you about them? She was lovely.'
So was Doc Daneeka's office. He had decorated his waiting room with goldfish and
one of the finest suites of cheap furniture. Whatever he could he bought on credit,
even the goldfish. For the rest, he obtained money from greedy relatives in exchange
for shares of the profits. His office was in Staten Island in a two-family firetrap
just four blocks away from the ferry stop and only one block south of a supermarket,
three beauty parlors, and two corrupt druggists. It was a corner location, but nothing
helped. Population turnover was small, and people clung through habit to the same
physicians they had been doing business with for years. Bills piled up rapidly, and he
was soon faced with the loss of his most precious medical instruments: his adding
machine was repossessed, and then his typewriter. The goldfish died. Fortunately,
just when things were blackest, the war broke out.
'It was a godsend,' Doc Daneeka confessed solemnly. 'Most of the other doctors
were soon in the service, and things picked up overnight. The corner location really
started paying off, and I soon found myself handling more patients than I could
handle competently. I upped my kickback fee with those two drugstores. The beauty
parlors were good for two, three abortions a week. Things couldn't have been better,
and then look what happened.
They had to send a guy from the draft board around to look me over. I was Four-F. I
had examined myself pretty thoroughly and discovered that I was unfit for military
service. You'd think my word would be enough, wouldn't you, since I was a doctor in
good standing with my county medical society and with my local Better Business
Bureau. But no, it wasn't, and they sent this guy around just to make sure I really did
have one leg amputated at the hip and was helplessly bedridden with incurable
rheumatoid arthritis. Yossarian, we live in an age of distrust and deteriorating
spiritual values. It's a terrible thing,' Doc Daneeka protested in a voice quavering
with strong emotion. 'It's a terrible thing when even the word of a licensed physician
is suspected by the country he loves.'
Doc Daneeka had been drafted and shipped to Pianosa as a flight surgeon, even
though he was terrified of flying.
'I don't have to go looking for trouble in an airplane,' he noted, blinking his beady,
brown, offended eyes myopically. 'It comes looking for me. Like that virgin I'm
telling you about that couldn't have a baby.'
'What virgin?' Yossarian asked. 'I thought you were telling me
about some newlyweds.'
'That's the virgin I'm telling you about. They were just a couple of young kids, and
they'd been married, oh, a little over a year when they came walking into my office
without an appointment. You should have seen her. She was so sweet and young and
pretty. She even blushed when I asked about her periods. I don't think I'll ever stop
loving that girl. She was built like a dream and wore a chain around her neck with a
medal of Saint Anthony hanging down inside the most beautiful bosom I never saw.
"It must be a terrible temptation for Saint Anthony," I joked - just to put her at
ease, you know. "Saint Anthony?" her husband said. "Who's Saint Anthony?" "Ask
your wife," I told him. "She can tell you who Saint Anthony is." "Who is Saint
Anthony?" he asked her. "Who?" she wanted to know. "Saint Anthony," he told her.
"Saint Anthony?" she said. "Who's Saint Anthony?" When I got a good look at her
inside my examination room I found she was still a virgin. I spoke to her husband
alone while she was pulling her girdle back on and hooking it onto her stockings.
"Every night," he boasted. A real wise guy, you know. "I never miss a night," he
boasted. He meant it, too. "I even been puttin' it to her mornings before the
breakfasts she makes me before we go to work," he boasted. There was only one
explanation. When I had them both together again I gave them a demonstration of
intercourse with the rubber models I've got in my office. I've got these rubber
models in my office with all the reproductive organs of both sexes that I keep locked
up in separate cabinets to avoid a scandal.
I mean I used to have them. I don't have anything any more, not even a practice.
The only thing I have now is this low temperature that I'm really starting to worry
about. Those two kids I've got working for me in the medical tent aren't worth a
damn as diagnosticians. All they know how to do is complain. They think they've got
troubles? What about me? They should have been in my office that day with those
two newlyweds looking at me as though I were telling them something nobody'd ever
heard of before. You never saw anybody so interested. "You mean like this?" he asked
me, and worked the models for himself awhile. You know, I can see where a certain
type of person might get a big kick out of doing just that. "That's it," I told him.
"Now, you go home and try it my way for a few months and see what happens. Okay?"
"Okay," they said, and paid me in cash without any argument. "Have a good time," I
told them, and they thanked me and walked out together. He had his arm around her
waist as though he couldn't wait to get her home and put it to her again. A few days
later he came back all by himself and told my nurse he had to see me right away. As
soon as we were alone, he punched me in the nose.'
'He did what?'
'He called me a wise guy and punched me in the nose. "What are you, a wise guy?" he
said, and knocked me flat on my ass. Pow! Just like that. I'm not kidding.'
'I know you're not kidding,' Yossarian said. 'But why did he do it?'
'How should I know why he did it?' Doc Daneeka retorted with annoyance.
'Maybe it had something to do with Saint Anthony?'
Doc Daneeka looked at Yossarian blankly. 'Saint Anthony?' he asked with
astonishment. 'Who's Saint Anthony?'
'How should I know?' answered Chief White Halfoat, staggering inside the tent just
then with a bottle of whiskey cradled in his arm and sitting himself down pugnaciously
between the two of them.
Doc Daneeka rose without a word and moved his chair outside the tent, his back
bowed by the compact kit of injustices that was his perpetual burden. He could not
bear the company of his roommate.
Chief White Halfoat thought he was crazy. 'I don't know what's the matter with
that guy,' he observed reproachfully. 'He's got no brains, that's what's the matter
with him. If he had any brains he'd grab a shovel and start digging. Right here in the
tent, he'd start digging, right under my cot. He'd strike oil in no time. Don't he know
how that enlisted man struck oil with a shovel back in the States?
Didn't he ever hear what happened to that kid - what was the name of that rotten
rat bastard pimp of a snotnose back in Colorado?'
'He's afraid,' Yossarian explained.
'Oh, no. Not Wintergreen.' Chief White Halfoat shook his head with undisguised
admiration. 'That stinking little punk wise-guy son of a bitch ain't afraid of nobody.'
'Doc Daneeka's afraid. That's what's the matter with him.'
'What's he afraid of?'
'He's afraid of you,' Yossarian said. 'He's afraid you're going to die of pneumonia.'
'He'd *better* be afraid,' Chief White Halfoat said. A deep, low laugh rumbled
through his massive chest. 'I will, too, the first chance I get. You just wait and see.'
Chief White Halfoat was a handsome, swarthy Indian from Oklahoma with a heavy,
hard-boned face and tousled black hair, a half-blooded Cree from Enid who, for
occult reasons of his own, had made up his mind to die of pneumonia. He was a
glowering, vengeful, disillusioned Indian who hated foreigners with names like
Cathcart, Korn, Black and Havermeyer and wished they'd all go back to where their
lousy ancestors had come from.
'You wouldn't believe it, Yossarian,' he ruminated, raising his voice deliberately to
bait Doc Daneeka, 'but this used to be a pretty good country to live in before they
loused it up with their goddam piety.'
Chief White Halfoat was out to revenge himself upon the white man. He could barely
read or write and had been assigned to Captain Black as assistant intelligence officer.
'How could I learn to read or write?' Chief White Halfoat demanded with simulated
belligerence, raising his voice again so that Doc Daneeka would hear. 'Every place we
pitched our tent, they sank an oil well. Every time they sank a well, they hit oil. And
every time they hit oil, they made us pack up our tent and go someplace else. We
were human divining rods. Our whole family had a natural affinity for petroleum
deposits, and soon every oil company in the world had technicians chasing us around.
We were always on the move. It was one hell of a way to bring a child up, I can tell
you. I don't think I ever spent more than a week in one place.'
His earliest memory was of a geologist.
'Every time another White Halfoat was born,' he continued, 'the stock market
turned bullish. Soon whole drilling crews were following us around with all their
equipment just to get the jump on each other. Companies began to merge just so they
could cut down on the number of people they had to assign to us. But the crowd in
back of us kept growing. We never got a good night's sleep. When we stopped, they
stopped. When we moved, they moved, chuckwagons, bulldozers, derricks, generators.
We were a walking business boom, and we began to receive invitations from some of
the best hotels just for the amount of business we would drag into town with us.
Some of those invitations were mighty generous, but we couldn't accept any because
we were Indians and all the best hotels that were inviting us wouldn't accept Indians
as guests. Racial prejudice is a terrible thing, Yossarian. It really is. It's a terrible
thing to treat a decent, loyal Indian like a nigger, kike, wop or spic.' Chief White
Halfoat nodded slowly with conviction.
'Then, Yossarian, it finally happened - the beginning of the end. They began to follow
us around from in front. They would try to guess where we were going to stop next
and would begin drilling before we even got there, so we couldn't stop. As soon as
we'd begin to unroll our blankets, they would kick us off. They had confidence in us.
They wouldn't even wait to strike oil before they kicked us off. We were so tired we
almost didn't care the day our time ran out. One morning we found ourselves
completely surrounded by oilmen waiting for us to come their way so they could kick
us off. Everywhere you looked there was an oilman on a ridge, waiting there like
Indians getting ready to attack. It was the end. We couldn't stay where we were
because we had just been kicked off. And there was no place left for us to go. Only
the Army saved me. Luckily, the war broke out just in the nick of time, and a draft
board picked me right up out of the middle and put me down safely in Lowery Field,
Colorado. I was the only survivor.'
Yossarian knew he was lying, but did not interrupt as Chief White Halfoat went on to
claim that he had never heard from his parents again. That didn't bother him too
much, though, for he had only their word for it that they were his parents, and since
they had lied to him about so many other things, they could just as well have been
lying to him about that too. He was much better acquainted with the fate of a tribe
of first cousins who had wandered away north in a diversionary movement and pushed
inadvertently into Canada. When they tried to return, they were stopped at the
border by American immigration authorities who would not let them back into the
country. They could not come back in because they were red.
It was a horrible joke, but Doc Daneeka didn't laugh until Yossarian came to him one
mission later and pleaded again, without any real expectation of success, to be
grounded. Doc Daneeka snickered once and was soon immersed in problems of his own,
which included Chief White Halfoat, who had been challenging him all that morning to
Indian wrestle, and Yossarian, who decided right then and there to go crazy.
'You're wasting your time,' Doc Daneeka was forced to tell him.
'Can't you ground someone who's crazy?'
'Oh, sure. I have to. There's a rule saying I have to ground anyone who's crazy.'
'Then why don't you ground me? I'm crazy. Ask Clevinger.'
'Clevinger? Where is Clevinger? You find Clevinger and I'll ask him.'
'Then ask any of the others. They'll tell you how crazy I am
'Then why don't you ground them?'
'Why don't they ask me to ground them?'
'Because they're crazy, that's why.'
'Of course they're crazy,' Doc Daneeka replied. 'I just told you they're crazy,
didn't I? And you can't let crazy people decide whether you're crazy or not,
Yossarian looked at him soberly and tried another approach. 'Is Orr crazy?'
'He sure is,' Doc Daneeka said.
'Can you ground him?'
'I sure can. But first he has to ask me to. That's part of the rule.'
'Then why doesn't he ask you to?'
'Because he's crazy,' Doc Daneeka said. 'He has to be crazy to keep flying combat
missions after all the close calls he's had. Sure, I can ground Orr. But first he has to
ask me to.'
'That's all he has to do to be grounded?'
'That's all. Let him ask me.'
'And then you can ground him?' Yossarian asked.
'No. Then I can't ground him.'
'You mean there's a catch?'
'Sure there's a catch,' Doc Daneeka replied. 'Catch-22. Anyone who wants to get out
of combat duty isn't really crazy.'
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for
one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the
process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was
ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more
missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was
sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he
didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the
absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
'That's some catch, that Catch-22,' he observed.
'It's the best there is,' Doc Daneeka agreed.
Yossarian saw it clearly in all its spinning reasonableness. There was an elliptical
precision about its perfect pairs of parts that was graceful and shocking, like good
modern art, and at times Yossarian wasn't quite sure that he saw it at all, just the
way he was never quite sure about good modern art or about the flies Orr saw in
Appleby's eyes. He had Orr's word to take for the flies in Appleby's eyes.
'Oh, they're there, all right,' Orr had assured him about the flies in Appleby's eyes
after Yossarian's fist fight with Appleby in the officers' club, 'although he probably
doesn't even know it. That's why he can't see things as they really are.'
'How come he doesn't know it?' inquired Yossarian.
'Because he's got flies in his eyes,' Orr explained with exaggerated patience. 'How
can he see he's got flies in his eyes if he's got flies in his eyes?'
It made as much sense as anything else, and Yossarian was willing to give Orr the
benefit of the doubt because Orr was from the wilderness outside New York City
and knew so much more about wildlife than Yossarian did, and because Orr, unlike
Yossarian's mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, in-law, teacher, spiritual
leader, legislator, neighbor and newspaper, had never lied to him about anything
crucial before. Yossarian had mulled his newfound knowledge about Appleby over in
private for a day or two and then decided, as a good deed, to pass the word along to
'Appleby, you've got flies in your eyes,' he whispered helpfully as they passed by
each other in the doorway of the parachute tent on the day of the weekly
milk run to Parma.
'What?' Appleby responded sharply, thrown into confusion by the fact that
Yossarian had spoken to him at all.
'You've got flies in your eyes,' Yossarian repeated. 'That's probably why
you can't see them.'
Appleby retreated from Yossarian with a look of loathing bewilderment and sulked in
silence until he was in the jeep with Havermeyer riding down the long, straight road
to the briefing room, where Major Danby, the fidgeting group operations officer, was
waiting to conduct the preliminary briefing with all the lead pilots, bombardiers and
navigators. Appleby spoke in a soft voice so that he would not be heard by the driver
or by Captain Black, who was stretched out with his eyes closed in the front seat of
'Havermeyer,' he asked hesitantly. 'Have I got flies in my eyes?'
Havermeyer blinked quizzically. 'Sties?' he asked.
'No, flies,' he was told.
Havermeyer blinked again. 'Flies?'
'In my eyes.'
'You must be crazy,' Havermeyer said.
'No, I'm not crazy. Yossarian's crazy. Just tell me if I've got flies in my eyes or not.
Go ahead. I can take it.'
Havermeyer popped another piece of peanut brittle into his mouth and peered very
closely into Appleby's eyes.
'I don't see any,' he announced.
Appleby heaved an immense sigh of relief. Havermeyer had tiny bits of peanut brittle
adhering to his lips, chin and cheeks.
'You've got peanut brittle crumbs on your face,' Appleby remarked to him.
'I'd rather have peanut brittle crumbs on my face than flies in my eyes,'
The officers of the other five planes in each flight arrived in trucks for the general
briefing that took place thirty minutes later. The three enlisted men in each crew
were not briefed at all, but were carried directly out on the airfield to the separate
planes in which they were scheduled to fly that day, where they waited around with
the ground crew until the officers with whom they had been scheduled to fly swung
off the rattling tailgates of the trucks delivering them and it was time to climb
aboard and start up. Engines rolled over disgruntedly on lollipop-shaped hardstands,
resisting first, then idling smoothly awhile, and then the planes lumbered around and
nosed forward lamely over the pebbled ground like sightless, stupid, crippled things
until they taxied into the line at the foot of the landing strip and took off swiftly,
one behind the other, in a zooming, rising roar, banking slowly into formation over
mottled treetops, and circling the field at even speed until all the flights of six had
been formed and then setting course over cerulean water on the first leg of the
journey to the target in northern Italy or France. The planes gained altitude steadily
and were above nine thousand feet by the time they crossed into enemy territory.
One of the surprising things always was the sense of calm and utter silence, broken
only by the test rounds fired from the machine guns, by an occasional toneless, terse
remark over the intercom, and, at last, by the sobering pronouncement of the
bombardier in each plane that they were at the I.P. and about to turn toward the
target. There was always sunshine, always a tiny sticking in the throat from the
The B-25s they flew in were stable, dependable, dull-green ships with twin rudders
and engines and wide wings. Their single fault, from where Yossarian sat as a
bombardier, was the tight crawlway separating the bombardier's compartment in the
plexiglass nose from the nearest escape hatch. The crawlway was a narrow, square,
cold tunnel hollowed out beneath the flight controls, and a large man like Yossarian
could squeeze through only with difficulty.
A chubby, moon-faced navigator with little reptilian eyes and a pipe like Aarfy's had
trouble, too, and Yossarian used to chase him back from the nose as they turned
toward the target, now minutes away. There was a time of tension then, a time of
waiting with nothing to hear and nothing to see and nothing to do but wait as the
antiaircraft guns below took aim and made ready to knock them all sprawling into
infinite sleep if they could.
The crawlway was Yossarian's lifeline to outside from a plane about to fall, but
Yossarian swore at it with seething antagonism, reviled it as an obstacle put there by
providence as part of the plot that would destroy him. There was room for an
additional escape hatch right there in the nose of a B-25, but there was no escape
hatch. Instead there was the crawlway, and since the mess on the mission over
Avignon he had learned to detest every mammoth inch of it, for it slung him seconds
and seconds away from his parachute, which was too bulky to be taken up front with
him, and seconds and seconds more after that away from the escape hatch on the
floor between the rear of the elevated flight deck and the feet of the faceless top
turret gunner mounted high above. Yossarian longed to be where Aarfy could be once
Yossarian had chased him back from the nose; Yossarian longed to sit on the floor in
a huddled ball right on top of the escape hatch inside a sheltering igloo of extra flak
suits that he would have been happy to carry along with him, his parachute already
hooked to his harness where it belonged, one fist clenching the red-handled rip cord,
one fist gripping the emergency hatch release that would spill him earthward into the
air at the first dreadful squeal of destruction. That was where he wanted to be if he
had to be there at all, instead of hung out there in front like some goddam
cantilevered goldfish in some goddam cantilevered goldfish bowl while the goddam
foul black tiers of flak were bursting and booming and billowing all around and above
and below him in a climbing, cracking, staggered, banging, phantasmagorical,
cosmological wickedness that jarred and tossed and shivered, clattered and pierced,
and threatened to annihilate them all in one splinter of a second in one
vast flash of fire.
Aarfy had been no use to Yossarian as a navigator or as anything else, and Yossarian
drove him back from the nose vehemently each time so that they would not clutter up
each other's way if they had to scramble suddenly for safety. Once Yossarian had
driven him back from the nose, Aarfy was free to cower on the floor where Yossarian
longed to cower, but he stood bolt upright instead with his stumpy arms resting
comfortably on the backs of the pilot's and co-pilot's seats, pipe in hand, making
affable small talk to McWatt and whoever happened to be co-pilot and pointing out
amusing trivia in the sky to the two men, who were too busy to be interested.
McWatt was too busy responding at the controls to Yossarian's strident instructions
as Yossarian slipped the plane in on the bomb run and then whipped them all away
violently around the ravenous pillars of exploding shells with curt, shrill, obscene
commands to McWatt that were much like the anguished, entreating nightmare
yelpings of Hungry Joe in the dark.
Aarfy would puff reflectively on his pipe throughout the whole chaotic clash, gazing
with unruffled curiosity at the war through McWatt's window as though it were a
remote disturbance that could not affect him. Aarfy was a dedicated fraternity man
who loved cheerleading and class reunions and did not have brains enough to be
afraid. Yossarian did have brains enough and was, and the only thing that stopped him
from abandoning his post under fire and scurrying back through the crawlway like a
yellow-bellied rat was his unwillingness to entrust the evasive action out of the
target area to anybody else. There was nobody else in the world he would honor with
so great a responsibility. There was nobody else he knew who was as big a coward.
Yossarian was the best man in the group at evasive action, but had no idea why.
There was no established procedure for evasive action. All you needed was fear, and
Yossarian had plenty of that, more fear than Orr or Hungry Joe, more fear than
Dunbar, who had resigned himself submissively to the idea that he must die someday.
Yossarian had not resigned himself to that idea, and he bolted for his life wildly on
each mission the instant his bombs were away, hollering, *'Hard, hard, hard, hard,
you bastard, hard!'* at McWatt and hating McWatt viciously all the time as though
McWatt were to blame for their being up there at all to be rubbed out by strangers,
and everybody else in the plane kept off the intercom, except for the pitiful time of
the mess on the mission to Avignon when Dobbs went crazy in mid-air and began
weeping pathetically for help.
'Help him, help him,' Dobbs sobbed. 'Help him, help him.'
'Help who? Help who?' called back Yossarian, once he had plugged his headset back
into the intercom system, after it had been jerked out when Dobbs wrested the
controls away from Huple and hurled them all down suddenly into the deafening,
paralyzing, horrifying dive which had plastered Yossarian helplessly to the ceiling of
the plane by the top of his head and from which Huple had rescued them just in time
by seizing the controls back from Dobbs and leveling the ship out almost as suddenly
right back in the middle of the buffeting layer of cacophonous flak from which they
had escaped successfully only a moment before. *Oh, God! Oh, *God, oh, God*,
Yossarian had been pleading wordlessly as he dangled from the ceiling of the nose of
the ship by the top of his head, unable to move.
'The bombardier, the bombardier,' Dobbs answered in a cry when Yossarian spoke.
'He doesn't answer, he doesn't answer. Help the bombardier, help the bombardier.'
'I'm the bombardier,' Yossarian cried back at him. 'I'm the bombardier. I'm all
right. I'm all right.'
'Then help him, help him,' Dobbs begged. 'Help him, help him.'
And Snowden lay dying in back.