Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Here's one for Acidman

Rob is, shall we say, not enamored of snakes. One of my neighbors was a medic in an infantry unit in Vietnam, also detests snakes, and told me this story:

His unit went out one day with strict orders to make no noise; basically, "Unless the enemy sees you and you have to shoot, do nothing to let them know you're there". So they went out into the jungle, and as they passed through an area the lieutenant suddenly said "Sergeant, don't move!" The sergeant, thinking it was a mine or boobytrap, froze, then looked down.

He was standing astride a python, and it had reared up in front of him- the lieutenant saw it just as it moved- and was poised with its' mouth open about 18" from the sergeants' crotch. Now, a python is not venomous, but they have lots of sharp teeth and can, to quote Capstick, bite the tax reform act out of you. The sergeant stayed very still, and the lieutenant slowly moved up- the snake making no effort to leave- then eased his rifle muzzle past the sergeants leg and almost into the snake's mouth, then pulled the trigger. Short burst, dead snake. So far, so good.

The captain now came on the radio for a contact report, and the lieutenant informed him no, no VC, just a BIG snake he had to shoot. This did not go over well, and the captain, probably thinking someone had a negligent discharge, ordered the snake brought back so he could see it.

Jim says this is where he really learned the value of keeping your mouth shut. The first thing he said after hearing they had to take it back was "I'm not carrying the sonofabitch", which was immediately followed by the officer pointing at him and saying "Get over here". So his load was spread around and he had to drape the damn thing over his shoulders and start walking. Think about this: with the head mostly blown off it dragged the ground on one side, went over his shoulders, then dragged on the other side. And that's a small python of the type. And he carried it for four kilometers back to base.

And just to make it really fun, every time they came out of shade into direct sunlight, the heat caused the nerves and muscles to react and it would start twisting around him. He says that after the first time he never noticed how heavy it was, because when in the sun it was moving on him, and when they got into shade it would calm down and he was so relieved that nothing else mattered.

They finally reached camp, and when the captain came out and asked where the blanking snake was, Jim walked up. The lieutenant grabbed the tail and told him to turn around, they unwound it and laid it out. The captain looked at it, and said "Well... Tomorrow, you head back out-" and that was all he said.

And yes, Jim STILL hates snakes.

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