Scrub

Russell Steven Rickert
April 7, 1961 – December 9, 2014

On December 9th, we lost a true friend. Steve was a great friend and a superb historian. Our lives changed forever on that eventful day when he walked into camp, threw his gear down and asked if he could fall in with us for the weekend. Little did we know how much better our camps were to be. He brought a sense of authenticity with him that I can only hope to emulate. One of my fondest memories is almost having to drag him into the tent at Zollicoffer, it was raining, spitting snow and sleet, and there he was, curled up out by the fire, barefooted with one blanket. He came in to the tent, but refused additional blankets, preferring to be a little bit uncomfortable for the sake of understanding our ancestors.

He was the first to fall in battle, and showed us the value in that. With his big smile and dancing eyes, you would see him choose his place, die realistically, or be horribly wounded. He gave us, the spectators and himself, his all. “Why would you not think, with all those guns blazing away, no one got hit?”, was his question. “People don’t count the dead, get back up after a bit and fight more.”

We called him “Steve we love to hate” on that first day. Oscar and I had tried all morning to snag a spectator or two, to no avail. Folks would smile, nod and walk on through. I told Scrub to throw up his tent and gear on the end of the Company street, and turned around and grabbed the ever present cup of coffee. Oscar said, “hey, look at that”. I looked, and there was Scrub holding up a small piece of wood, explaining to several spectators how rifles were made. Before long, there was a crowd as he demonstrated bayonet lunges with the rifle he had built from that chunk of wood, there were folks milling around, crawling in and out of his tent. Maybe 25 or so, a nice crowd. Steve came over later and I said, “You know, we are going to call you Steve we love to hate”. He gave me that big smile and said, “I’m called Scrub”. It was years before I asked him why. We had just finished breakfast and he held up his cook gear, all brightly cleaned. He said, “I like to be authentic when I can, but I draw the line at dysentery”, and began to scrub his fork and knife.

One of my favorite stories: We were at the last Ft. Sanders and I wanted the guys to be sharp, so of course we drilled. Scrub was there, but serving with the Pioneer Corp that weekend. He belonged to several units and split his time with them all. He came running from the tree line and asked if he could fall in to drill. Sure! So I marched us in file, telling folks to guide around the pile on the ground, evidently someone had hit the sauce a bit heavy the night before and had been sick in the field. Scrub, last in line, reached down and scooped up a handful and popped it in his mouth, eyes twinkling and a huge smile on his face. To a man, we all turned green and almost lost our breakfast. Then over our howls of disgust, he explained the pile on the ground was his extra oatmeal from that morning. I still look at oatmeal in the morning and flashback. I hope I always do.

The stories we have about him will go on and on, and I hope that at every campfire, someone will call his name and tell his story. He will be in our hearts forever.

Here are some photos of our beloved buddy: Scrub

Captain Smith