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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
V.I.P. Member
Posts: 338
(10/29/02 9:58:47 pm)
| Edit | Del All The Panama Surprise!!!

Everyone has experiences that are…well… different..

Sometimes you have them and then they are forgotten…because they were never a traumatic event in your life.

Some experiences are like this one…..

It begins…..

Panama………. Early 1966..

Spring in Panama is one of the two great rainy seasons….

It rains at 7:30AM and 4:30PM every day.. like clock work.

Our block-house was located some miles away from the barracks and we had to ride military busses to and from work because of the rain and also because they would not let anyone drive private vehicles out to it. At least, anyone who was not a SSgt. or above… and since I was still a corporal…I rode the bus….

After several weeks of this…. I questioned some of our other guys about just how far is the barracks from here.

It seemed that the bus ride was twenty minutes on a good paved black-top and , I figured that it couldn’t be more than ten miles to the block-house from the barracks.

My idea was to ride into work, and then walk back.

A good way to stay in shape..

(please don’t laugh… I USE to have a shape!!)

Some of the other guys thought that it was a good idea too. So when the rainy season changed to summer, we started walking back.

It was fun…. But we soon found that we needed to take our canteens with us… THE HEAT!!!! Good God the humidity was bad. And at that time… NO ONE was acclimated to it…..that took time.

After our second week… I started to wonder about the distance again….

I have a fairly good sense of direction, even without a compass. For some reason I began to think that the distance between the barracks and the block-house was closer than we had been told or estimated ourselves.


Because those antennas are HUGE ROMBICS…. and one night, I noticed that those red lights at the top were way closer than I thought.

Again, after having a discussion with some of the guys, a few of us were going to explore the jungle and see if we could find a route back to the barracks that might be shorter…

and more fun than a road….

The others would watch for us and if we did not get back in time for last-chow, they would drive back out and try to find us.

So… one day, after work.. a few of us set out across the antenna field.. and discovered that there were roads out in the jungle…. They were most likely, fire breaks because they were not traveled much at all. But it gave us a clearer path to follow….

The first stretch was OK with nothing in our path….. the next mile had a lot of bamboo growing in the road so we just used our little bolo’s to cut through it…..

We can across many, many Iguanas. Small ones, large ones and a couple of really big SOB’s that could be ridden if anyone had a saddle!!!

Monkeys…..snakes.. of all kinds.. and yes,, even a couple of Fer-de-lance’s…. a little green or brown snake that kills in seconds..(two children died that year… while playing in there own front yard on post!!)… we HEARD a big cat, but never saw it…. Boa’s.. and mosquitoes that were as big as Missouri ones….you know the kind… ones that haul off small birds for food??!! And ants……….

Army ants…….. millions of them…. One group was traveling across the road in one direction and another group was crossing the road in the other direction at the same time about eight feet apart. We sat and watched this parade for ten minutes before we decided how we were going to get past them….

You see.. if we put something in their path, they swarmed over it and try to haul it away or chewed it up before moving it…

One of the guys tried to just walk through them but they were up his leg and into his pants before you could say ….


We had to slap and smack at them to kill them and get them off of him… by the time he got his trousers off… he had been bitten maybe a hundred times!!!!… took him two weeks to heal too!!

Vicious little buggers!!!!

Well… what’s next???

Lets see…..well… nothing left but to try to jump over them… so we took a few steps… or maybe it was a BUNCH of steps back down the road and ran up and jumped over the first group…. Then jumped over the second group….

Well THAT was fun… lets not do that again if we can help it.

Turns out… that the distance through the jungle fire roads was only one mile!!….We even started to walk TO work!!

The very next day, two guys brought lighter fluid with them…


On the third day, they were gone. It wasn’t until we started jungle school training that we learned more about them…..

This little “after work walk”, turned out to be fun & educational. We started learning all the plants, trees, insects and such … what could be used for food, medicine and one day we even stopped and made our own blowguns….

We came across several iron-wood trees… these trees are almost like the one that grow here in Missouri… they have a row of stiff spikes that runs around the trunk about every foot. And the spikes are anywhere from 4 to 8 inches long. You take one and bend it and twist it until it comes off the trunk. It will have a very sharp point and the end you twisted off will act as a feather and stabilize the dart in flight. The natives use spiders web twisted around the feather so that it ends up resembling a Q-tip on one end. Further down the continent, they soak the darts in poisons.

Now… to make the blowguns, just choose a piece of Bamboo and cut it the length you want. You take some sort of rod or a clothes hanger and push it through the Bamboo, that clears out the Pith in it. However, you must made sure that you do not have a “Joint” in the new blowgun.. If you do… you can blow the dart into the gun and it might bounce off the inside and come back into your lip!! Or worse your throat!!

MAN those thing were fun… killed a whole bunch or birds one night and had a cook out….Didn’t taste like chicken though!! Needed garlic!!

Summers heat turns vicious…. Humidity is a hundred percent or better… but… we are getting acclimated to it to some extent. I think that my time in Panama helped me work well in VN……

We start jungle school and the instructor is pleased with us, we are fast learners…. And I think that our little walks are the reason…. He begins to teach us how to avoid getting bitten by the snakes.. where not to walk… were to avoid near certain types of streams and so forth…

But the one thing that he taught us was about how to avoid getting bitten by the Tarantulas in Panama..



We had never seen any on our walks….I HATE spiders…..

“Hell boys… you probably walked right past a whole damn nest of them and didn’t know it… but if you had camped out at night next to them… you WOULD know it!!

They can jump eight feet straight up….

They can walk on the underside of a palm frond…

They can chew right through a cardboard box… and some one the big ones can be run over by a Volkswagen and STILL crawl off”!!!

They eat birds, their eggs and anything that is unlucky enough to be on the ground, in a hole or too close to them… the only thing they are afraid of is….. Army Ants!!! The ants will swarm right over them and bite them to death before they can crawl ten feet….”

After much discussion in this class.. the instructor says that he will join us on one of our walks… and see if there is anything about the jungle he can teach us along our route… sort of like a “Field exercise”.

A couple of days later, he meets us at the block-house parking lot and goes with us…. All the while pointing out plants that we should not touch (Rundles picked one).. the things we should not eat..(Jamison chewed on one like a tooth-pick) and so forth…

We had a lot to learn it seemed.

As we started to leave the antenna field and start into the jungle, he says..

“Any of you boys walked up onto or around that little mound over there?”


It was a small mound, maybe twenty or twenty-five feet in diameter… we have not gone near it because it was in the field next to one of the towers and we always avoided the towers and the guy-wires….a LOT of static electricity goes through those things. And where ever there was a tower, the grass grows very tall and green… static electricity is good for growing grass!!..

“Hey… someone go cut me a fifteen or twenty foot piece of Bamboo”

Someone complies… and hands it to him…

“OK…. I want you to take a good look and this mound… what do you see?”

UUUUUUUhhhhh grass…. Small hill…..

“NO NO NO.. look at the HOLES all around it”

He was right! There were little holes or tunnels that lead down into the mound… many holes…. All the way around it. If you were to draw a line on a piece of paper, the tunnels would almost point straight to the center of the mound!

“take this Bamboo pole and push it into the mound…. Twist it about three times and pull it out”….

“OK”… Jamison says that he would do it…

He takes the pole and pushes it deep into one of the tunnels…. When he feels it hit bottom, he twisted the pole and drew it out……

As he holds the pole up in front of him..

We see….



“Now… you see why you didn’t see them?” the instructor asks….

To an empty field….

All he saw were wavering shadows of our former selves because WE GOT THE HELL OUT OF THERE!!!!

We were ALL gone before the pole hit the ground!!!

He laughed himself into a real stupor over that one….(.teased us for months!!)

We composed ourselves…. Finished our walk… and immediately reported to the grounds keeper that there were spiders in the antenna field….they told us later that they killed off eighteen mounds out on that field….

NONE of us ever walked in the antenna field again, and when we saw a mound of ANY sort… we avoided it!!!


But we passed the jungle school course!!


Esse Quam Videri
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