This post continues from yesterday.
The roads I took in Vietnam became a part of my life's journey.
They were my path to manhood, for better or worse.
Highway 22 overlooked the Song Ba River. To be more accurate, the Ba River as Song means river in Vietnamese.
We called it the Song Ba River because that’s what someone wrote down on the maps we used.
Maybe that someone liked the sound of “Song” and modified the real local name as Americans did so often during the war. Who cares right?
We had allies out in the jungle too. We were staying in the An Khe area along the West bank where some Montagnards lived. They hated the NVA and the VC, so we became allies. The tribe that we had the most contact with was the Jarair. They were tough little nuts who were fierce fighters and who considered the Vietnamese their enemy from ancient times.
They also knew how to live off the land. They picked wild green onions, chopped bamboo shoots, and captured red ant nests using battery bags discarded by Americans. They’d take some of the rice they always carried with them and throw it into boiling hot water along with the green onions, bamboo shoots, and the red ants.
The concoction wasn’t bad at all. Kind of a minty tasting. Much better than the fish head stew I once had in a Montagnard village. While we’re on the subject of local cuisine, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Vietnamese Centipede, an orange-legged terror that runs from four inches to eight inches long and has an attitude.
A nearby South Korean unit, we called them ROKS, liked to eat those centipedes. They put them in with their foul-smelling kim che (which already smelled bad enough to gag a maggot). They also ate monkey brains, but I’m not going any further with this.
There was a certain lizard there, about three feet long, that also figured into the local cuisine. I don’t know what it’s real name was, but we called them “Fuck You” lizards. They hung around trees and in the night you could hear them go: “Tik, tik, tik, phuk yu!” They really sounded like someone saying fuck you. If you listened long enough.
We’d tell new guys that it was Charlie out there taunting us, and that got their attention. Saw a Fuck You lizard with a flashlight one night. It looked like a miniature dinosaur and hissed at me! The next day I saw that lizard’s double draped across the back of a young Montagnard boy. He may have been Vietnamese. It’s hard to remember some details. It’s limp body spanned his shoulders and he smiled when I pointed at it.
“Numba one chop chop” he said.
I hope this little two-part post helps you understand what it was like 46 years ago for a 19-year-old boy who had to become a man fast in a foreign land. It helps me to share this part of my history and hopefully help people understand war is hell.
For some soldiers like me with PTSD, the war has never ended. I live with tortured memories that still come unbidden. Yet, I manage to lead a somewhat normal life (what’s that anyway?).
Thank you for reading this. It helps to share.
Time for me to walk on down the road...