“Don’t even think about it!”

Shortly after I got assigned to 1st Guns in March 1966 I was selected to stand watch in a hole on our perimeter wire. I was a “newbie” but I was surrounded by “newbies” because, while I had been in country for only a few days, the entire battery had only been in country a few days longer than me. The position I was in was set up as a machine gun position. The hole itself was shaped like a “U” with the machine gun on the ground between the legs of the “U”. It was sandbagged on the top and on all sides with a small slit in the front and an opening in the rear to allow us to get in and out.

I was assigned there with another guy from the FDC (Fire Direction Center). He said he was from California but he had a decided twang in his speech that said he had originated somewhere in Appalachia. We were expected to stand watch all night so we were not assigned any chores during the day and we took turns dozing and generally just farting around. My hole-mate decided to take a nap and he laid down on his back on a cot we had in the hole with us that took up much of the available space. He pulled a mosquito net over him and fell fast asleep. I sat in the hole wondering how I was going to die that night because all my ‘training’ in California convinced me that having been in country for a week or so I was on borrowed time.

Shortly I caught something moving in the hole out of the corner of my eye. When I finally saw it I just about came unglued! There, coiled on top of the mosquito netting on this guy’s chest, was a little green snake that was about a foot long. Now in my training in Camp Pendleton I had been told that there were some very dangerous snakes in Vietnam. One in particular was considered very dangerous. It was small and green and it was called a Bamboo Viper. It was considered very deadly. They told us the natives called it a “two-stepper” because you would only be expected to survive long enough to take two steps before you died if it bit you. In fact I don’t know if it had to bite you. I think it just had to look at you according to the training. Anyway here I was locked in a hole with the most deadly snake in the world and I had no way out!

I grabbed my rifle and chambered a round. When I did that it woke up my hole-mate and he moved, which agitated the snake. I leveled my rifle at the snake, which was sitting on this guy’s chest, and I decided if it made one tiny move towards me I would shoot it regardless of the fact that it would certainly¬† put a good sized hole in my partner in the process of killing the snake.

The guy, who I had only known for a few days at that time, looked at me carefully, sized up the situation, and said to me in a very steady voice, “Don’t even think about it!” The snake took off and I ejected the round from the chamber of my rifle. I never slept a wink for the rest of the time I was on watch in that hole.

Well, I have to tell you that I’m very happy I didn’t shoot that snake that day back in 1966 because I just spent close to three weeks with that guy I was in the hole with. We had a great trip and learned that after 51 years we still enjoy each other’s company.

James C. Kiser and the author, Bob Simington on the Hai Van Pass

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