Two Step Snake

3 NOV 1968

We stopped about two hours later in another open saw grass clearing for a rest and lunch break. I called for and got permission to take a resupply chopper while we were in the clearing so we could get some sand bags, ammo, mail, and C-rations. Next I got in touch with the trains area and told them what to send out on the resupply chopper. While I was on the radio talking to the CO, one of my friends from the second squad, a fellow country boy from Alabama, walked up holding a beautiful yellow green snake about two feet long and about as thick as a pencil. He knew I liked to handle snakes too, so he offered him to me to hold.  Still talking on the radio, I told him maybe later.  The head of the snake was shaped like a spear point with large round eyes and for some reason that roused my defenses.  I got through finding out that our injured man had been sent to the field hospital and would live, but was going to be shipped home for treatment.   About then, a soldier came running up yelling, "get a Medevac! That damn snake bit him in the neck."  I quickly changed frequencies and called battalion for an immediate Medevac.  I was moving towards the injured man, when Doc stood up shaking his head and said quietly, "Forget the Medevac, he's dead."  I stood there for a few seconds, stunned.  It turns out that the snake wasn't a harmless green snake after all. I now know that it was a deadly bamboo viper.  The neurotoxin had paralyzed his breathing and killed him within a matter of minutes.  Regaining my composure I cancelled the Medevac and got in touch with the incoming resupply chopper to let them know that we had a body to send back with them. After the chopper left, the silence was weird.  No one moved, no one spoke.  The supplies just lay where they had tossed them out the chopper. We were all in shock.  I just sat there staring blankly, replaying the entire scene in my mind.  It could have just as easily been me.  What had prevented me from playing with that beautiful snake?  Finally the radio started up and I had to come back to reality.  It was the CO wanting to know what had happened.  By the time I had updated the CO, the supplies had been split up and passed out for transport. We had to move dangerously fast to make the hill top before night fall and still have time to prepare fields of fire and dig foxholes. I sent out three man listening posts up and down the trail about fifty meters.  I also had a LP positioned a short distance down each slope of the ridge, to detect any movement coming up from the valleys.  Needless to say, we fired in artillery defensive targets before the patrols went out.  They were told to set up about 50 meters from the impact of the rounds, so they would have prefired close in support to cover any retreat.  The night was long and surprisingly cold. I got little or no sleep.  I kept replaying the days events in my mind. 

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