9:52 a.m. - November 28, 2006
And yet, the battle could have been avoided all together, if some decisions had been made prior to the actual assault. Such as it is with war, planning and preparation win the fight more often than not. This was definitely evident on this mild, late fall evening in Indiana.
J. Henry Thripshaw, Professor of History, Swarthmore College: It’s obvious this whole mess could have been avoided, if careful preparations were taken before hand. Clearly, this was a senseless battle, and came at a great cost for the Smed nation.
Narrator: The day started out well for the Smed. A planned rendezvous at the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis took place with three of the four armies, the Smed, the Katie and the Kristin, leaving the Liz army to guard the home front. Yet that’s when the first tactical error took place.
The Liz got sucked up into a battle inside the house in the laundry room. What was going to be a minor skirmish in priming and painting took on a new dimension. Reinforcements had to be called in, and the pantry emptied. That took a lot of manpower and energy, and the Liz army was somewhat depleted that afternoon.
That changed the tactics on winning the key prize of the day – dinner. The original plan was to stay in, and have dinner come to the house, or perhaps cook a nice meal on the stove. But with the kitchen now a mess, there was no place to eat. So a change in plans had to be made.
Thripshaw: Let’s not be too hasty in blaming the Liz army, though. The intelligence that was given to her was faulty. The enemy in the utility room was greater than imagined. That army fought valiantly that afternoon, and in no way should be blamed for the night time battle errors.
When the other armies returned home, it was decided that they needed to attack for dinner. Battle plans were made and it was decided that an assault on Johnny Provelone’s for pizza would be in everyone’s best interests.
Robert J. Smith-Heron, Professor of Military History, The Ohio State University: It was going to be a simple fight. Provelone’s isn’t usually that busy – everyone could handle some pizza, even the Kristin army. But they didn’t do any advance reconnaissance, and there was a big surprise waiting for them at Provelone’s.
Narrator: Indeed, there was a surprise. It was crowded. Too crowded. The armies were going to have a long wait to engage and then eat. Plus, the likelihood of unintended casualties would be high, because some civilians would be caught in the shrapnel. The Smed armies beat a hasty retreat, and regrouped.
Smith-Heron: It was the downtown festival in Crawfordsville, everywhere there would be scores of people, and every place to attack would be clogged with civilians. They had to pull their attack to the south, because it was getting late, especially for the Katie and Kristin armies. They needed their dinner, as it was already dark.
Narrator: A plan was drawn up to go to Steak ‘N’ Shake. While it was a new restaurant, and busy, the thought was that they could sit down and have their meal in a relatively short amount of time, and get in and out without many casualties. They got more than they bargained for.
Thripshaw: The first sign of trouble was on the advance to Steak ‘N’ Shake. The Katie army and the Smed army got into a dispute on landmarks. It seems that during the museum attack, they ate at a Burger King in the museum. Yet when passing the Burger King on the way to Steak ‘N’ Shake, Katie refused to recognize it, since the one in the Children’s Museum didn’t have the big sign out front. That led to some tension and started the communication breakdown. Then the Katie army advanced toward the restaurant in the parking lot without holding someone’s hand. That’s a flouting of the rules of engagement, and discipline had to come down hard, leading to some resentment.
Narrator: The armies arrived at their objective, but they still had to wait to engage. It seemed that everyone in the county was going out to dinner that Saturday night. But the wait wasn’t too long, and finally, they got the go ahead to advance.
Things were looking up, but soon, dame fortune would turn against the Smed nation.
Smith-Heron: The first sign was that the Kristin army refused their assigned place, the high chair. That army decided, on its own, to sit next to the Liz army, or stand and walk around, but not to stay in the high chair as high command directed. This led to a loss of morale within the Liz army and the Smed army.
Narrator: Indeed the defiance of the Kristin army would lead to more casualties, and a lack of discipline and order in the ranks. Tensions were growing, and certainly there could be more unintended casualties amongst the unarmed civilians nearby.
Thripshaw: It was a busy place. Not the best place for an attack with four armies, two of them being younger and less disciplined. Plus it was late and all four armies were tired and on edge. They got some crackers for the Kristin army, in an effort to get that army to sit and eat, but the Katie army tried to steal some of the crackers for itself. That caused a ruckus in the ranks, and a threat to pull out of the Steak ‘N’ Shake immediately if corrective measures weren’t taken.
Narrator: The order was placed. The Katie army insisted on her sandwich being whole, and not cut. That army was also getting tired and insolent. There was a lack of discipline among the ranks, and even the older, more experienced Smed and Liz armies were sensing that this was not going to be their night.
The chili for the Smed army arrived. The Liz army looked on in jealousy as the Smed army engaged with part of a meal, while they held back in check. That caused discord and unease within the Smed army, as this letter from a solider says below:
We have tried our best to secure dinner for the Smed nation. Yet the other armies are resenting our efforts. It is not our fault we had chili and got to engage early and they did not order something like that – yet we are looked on with scorn. I fear that this engagement will not be successful, or if it is, it will be at a high cost. The Katie army has already almost threatened our attack and the Kristin army seems to be wandering around.
Please pray for us,
Smith-Heron: That amazing letter from Staff Sergeant Miles Fortran really captures the mood of the armies. This was doomed almost from the start, it seemed.
Narrator: Finally, the main objective appears – the rest of dinner. Finally all of the armies could attack. However, there were still more problems. The Katie army was upset because her sandwich was indeed cut in half. The Kristin army was restless – hardly eating any of the grilled cheese and concentrating on the fries.
Meanwhile, the Liz army asked the Smed army to put ketchup on her steakburger. Smed asked why, since she ordered it with mayo and lettuce. Liz insisted that she didn’t order mayo. It was a simple communication breakdown that cost the Smed nation valuable momentum.
Thripshaw: Meanwhile, the Kristin army was advancing perilously close to civilians and looked to be engaging upon them instead of dinner. Fast action by the Liz army got the Kristin army back on track, but it still was a struggle to keep the Kristin army reined in.
Narrator: Finally, the Smed nation seemed to be gaining control over their objective. The meal was finishing up, but there was still discord in the ranks. The Kristin army wanted nothing to do with the grilled cheese, while the Katie army lamented the loss of part of their bun.
Finally, it was over, but at what cost? The bedraggled remnants of the Smed nation retreated back to their house, first fighting two skirmishes at Home Depot, where the Liz army took on a can of paint, and at Kroger’s, where the Smed army engaged with a gallon of whole milk. The Katie and Kristin armies were put to bed within minutes with no bath or book, while the Smed and Liz armies contemplated a rest and relaxation themselves. However, there was no time for rest the next day for those armies.
Smith-Heron: The cost was high, almost too high. Nerves were shattered amongst the survivors, and casualties were steep. It was almost not worth the gaining of dinner. One wonders if they could have someone remained at home for a delivery pizza, how the tale may have turned.
Thripshaw: I guess you could call it a success, but this is definitely a Pyrrhic victory.
Narrator: The Smed nation, and its four armies would survive to fight another day. But on this mild November evening, the battle of Steak ‘N’ Shake was a tiring, costly event, and one that would take them several days to recover.