Thursday, May 9, 2019
Seven Skinny Cows: Campfire Talks, Vlad the Impaler
“How many of you know Dmitri from Kates Store?” Chernovsky asked.
The sun sets early in the winter. It was full dark. Two sentries were posted up at the north gate but with the temperature at fifteen degrees and the southwest wind kicking along at 10 miles an hour, nobody was coming.
The eight hours of daylight were used in heavy, physical activities. The young men thrived on nine hours of sleep. That left seven hours to fill.
A gentle bed of coals burned in the steel, truck wheel that served as a fire ring. The red light of coals does not diminish night vision nor is it likely to telegraph position.
Chernovsky had been jollied into telling stories. He used the opportunity to pass lessons on to his soldiers. Tonight he was going to share one he heard from Dmitri.
About six young men raised their hands.
“Where did Dmitri come from?” Chernovsky asked.
“Russia”, “Rome” various young men guessed. Finally, Walter Shaw said “Romania”.
“Yup, that’s right. Romania.” Chernovsky said.
“Do you know where Romania is?” Chernovsky asked.
Everybody, even Walter Shaw was very fuzzy about the location of Romania.
“Have any of you ever heard of a place called Adrianople?” Chernovsky asked.
Walter said, "There is a town named Adrian down by the Ohio border.
"Yup." Chernovsky said. "It was probably named after Adrianople."
“Adrianople is the most fought over piece of real estate on earth. Sixteen time, epic, world-war scale battles were fought at Adrianople. There are no gold mines in Adrianople. There is no silver or gems. The weather sucks. No government ever set up a capital there. Why would anybody, much less thirty-two armies fight for control of Adrianople?”
“It is because geography rules. Adrianople is the single best place to defend against an army trying to get from Asia-to-Europe or from Europe-to-Asia.” Chernovsky said.
The young men were trying to figure out what this had to do with Romania.
“The second best place to defend is in Romania.” Chernvosky said. “Armies from Asia have to move up the Danube river to reach the heart of Europe. The Danube river flows through Romania and then into the Black Sea. If the European army could not stop the barbarians at Adrianople, their next best chance was Romania.”
Chernovsky spit into the coals and thought about what he was going to say next.
“Fifty years before Columbus discovered America, a Turkish army invaded Europe. Europe was Christian. Turkey was Muslim. Muslims offered captured cities the opportunity to surrender and convert to Islam. If they refused, they killed everybody in the city. The Quaran, their holy book, told them to do that.” Chernovsky said. "In fact, one of the Turkish generals, one named Tamerlane, was famous for making pyramids of his enemies skulls after killing everybody in the cities."
“The Turkish army crushed the main European army at Adrianople. The only thing between them and northern Europe was a minor Romanian warlord named Vlad.” Chernovsky said.
“The Turkish army was almost a quarter of a million fighting men. Vlad’s army was scattered through the hills and less than fifty thousand.” Chernovsky said. "So Vlad's army was outnumbered five-to-one.
“A fog covered the mountains in the first battle and twenty thousand Turkish soldiers were separated from their main force.” Chernovsky said. “They surrendered to Vlad’s army. Threw down their swords and surrendered.”
“Vlad could not spare the food to feed them. He could not spare the soldiers to guard them. He could not turn them back over to his enemies because then he would face them on the battle field again.” Chernovsky said.
Changing topics, Chernovsky said, “In those days they executed criminals by impaling them. They did not run them through with a nice, clean spear and have them bleed out in forty seconds. Nope, they made an example of them.”
“They would find a young tree growing in the woods, a tree that was between one and two inches in diameter. They cut the tree at four feet using an ax so the tip was a sharp point.” Chernovsky said. Then he was quiet while his audience visualized what he had described.
“Then, six strong men took the prisoner, who was all tied up or had been thumped on his head so he did not fight, and they pushed him down on the stake.” Chernovsky said.
“Why would it take six men?” Walter Shaw asked.
“Because they rammed it up his ass.” Chernovsky said.
“When it was half way in, and there was no way he could wiggle off, they untied his legs. As long as he stayed on tippy-toes, the point of the stake would not pierce his heart.” Chernovsky said.
“Vlad’s army took the twenty thousand prisoners to a valley that the Turks had to move up to attack them. The young maple trees grew thicker than hairs on a dog’s back.” Chernovsky said.
The young men drew their collective breath. “NO!” they whispered in horror.
“Vlad had his men impale all twenty thousand prisoners. The men cut the maple saplings and sharpened the ends and they had at-it.” Chernovsky said.
"The other thing you need to know is that not all of the prisoners were soldiers. There were women...cooked and wash and did...ahem, other things." Chernovsky said, delicately. "And there were kids who followed the army. Vlad the Impaler had them all executed."
“When the Turks moved up the valley they came to the place where all the saplings had been cut and their squad-mates were stuck to the ground like twenty thousand lollipops.”
"The Turkish soldiers recognized executed soldiers. Soldiers they had grown up with in the same villages. Cousins. Brothers. Fathers. Sons.” Chernovsky said. "The amazing thing is that some of the prisoners were still alive, even after two days...they told the Turkish soldiers and generals what happened. And they begged the Turks to kill them out of mercy.
“Do you want to know what the two-hundred, thirty thousand Turks did?” Chernovksy said. “They turned around and went home.”
“The other thing you need to know about Vlad the Impaler is the name of the castle where he lived. Them name of that castle is Castle Dracula, and consequently Vlad the Impaler is also known as Count Dracula.” Chernovsky said.
“That is horrible.” one of the younger men opined.
“That is easy to say when you are five hundred years from the event. If the Turks had conquered Europe, none of us would be here.” Chernovsky said. “Our fore-fathers would have been executed and our female ancestors would have been sold into slavery.”
“Vlad’s treatment of those twenty thousand prisoners spared the twenty million people in Europe.” Chernovsky said.