Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Snake in the Bed

Growing up in South Louisiana I ended up having a pet snake every summer after my dad introduced me to them. Sometimes I might have kept my pet snake for only five minutes after catching it before letting it go, but I had at least one each summer.
One day I was driving my mom's station-wagon to the HiHo to get some BBQ for lunch when a speckled king snake started to cross the road. I slammed on the brakes, threw the car in park, and quickly exited to capture the snake. I didn't have time to get a stick to help me, so I just snatched the snake by its midsection and tossed him through the open door onto the floor on the passenger's side. Once the snake hit the floor board, it threw up its lunch; a copperhead. The snake then crawled up under the seat where I left it until I had time to fish it out later.

I spent two years in Korea right after completing Army Flight School shortly after completing high school. Sometime during my second summer in Korea I started realizing that it had been a long time since I'd seen a snake. I was missing them. So, to resolve my longing for a pet snake, I headed downtown to the local Korean pet store. When I found the store I asked the Korean proprietor, "Ajossi, an nyong ha sye yo? Bam Issoyo? (Hello Mister, how are you? Do you have a snake?)

The Korean Ajossi said, "Anieyo! Bam opsoyo!" (No! I don't have a snake!)

Me, "Dun issoyo. Tungsinnun kajawa bam, Nanun kajawa dun. (I have money. You give me a snake and I'll give you money.)

My Korean wasn't fluent by any means, but somehow I seemed to manage with the little bit I knew. Adult Koreans were very patient and kind helping me with my Korean. They seemed truly appreciative that I took an interest in their language. One day I was walking down a sidewalk with three little Korean kids approached me from behind. I turned and said something to them in Korean. All three covered their mouths, pointed and laughed at the silly American trying to speak Korean. I imagine my strong southern accent helped to amuse them. When I spoke Korean my fellow pilots referred to it as "Cajun-Korean".

The old ajossi nodded his head, "okay", so I wrote my name and phone number on a piece of paper. A couple of weeks later he called me and said he had my snake. I went and picked my snake up and paid him. I really don't know what kind of snake it was, but it looked very similar to the cornsnake in the YouTube video above. It was about the same size as the snake in the video also.
Campbell and Robert
Back in my BOQ (Bachelor Officer's Quarters) room I kept the snake in the bottom of my metal wall locker. This BOQ was a long building with a hallway running down the north side and numerous rooms on the south south. These were double occupancy rooms and I shared my room with another pilot from South Louisiana, Don Campbell.

This is a picture of Campbell and I letting our hair down some in our room as we are getting ready to head out to the Ville for a little after hours recreation. I'm in the foreground emptying the bottle as Don is jamming out to some song in the back ground. Quadraphonic sound systems were big back in those days. Another pilot, Bernie Reth, had a tape of the Reno Air Races. Bernie and another pilot borrowed speakers from other pilots and set up about a dozen of them wired in 4 channel sequence and spaced out down the long hall way. Then bright and early one morning the cranked up the Reno Air Races. It sounded like the planes were doing low level passes through the BOQ building entering one door and exiting the other. Vietnam vets quickly climbed out of bed onto the floor and low-crawled to nearby windows peeking out to see if they could tell what was going on. Korean contract guards were seen staring up in the sky trying to spot the non-existant aircraft. You never knew what kind of prank might take place in Korea.

Anyhow, I returned to our room late one night with a fair degree of inebriation. Don had already retired for the night. When I entered the room a cold blast of air hit me. Campbell had the air conditioner cranked up high. The first thing I thought of when the blast of cold air hit me was my snake in the bottom of the metal wall locker. I though, "Dang, Campbell's gonna kill my snake running the air that cold." I stripped for bed, but before climbing under the covers I opened my metal wall locker up and took my snake out. I then crawled under the covers and released the snake on top of my bed thinking he could now seek out his own source of heat as I fell sound asleep.

The next morning I was in the light stages of sleep just before awakening when I felt a thump on the foot of my bed followed by a string of expletives. I awoke and sat up to see what was going on. Campbell was sitting up in his bed just a cuss' n, "ROWBEAR if you ever put that snake on me again, I'm going to kill you and it too!"

Don wasn't too happy. Evidently the snake crawled out of my bed and into Campbell's bed exploring and seeking out its own source of heat. Campbell was asleep on his back when he felt a slight weight on his chest. He opened his eyes and found himself eyeball to eyeball with my snake as the snakes's tongue kept coming out sampling the air toward Don's face.

Anyhow, Don just snatched the snake and chunked it my way as quick as he could, and the snake landed on the foot of my bed. I had a good laugh. The snake was fine and Campbell was fine. I told Don how he would have killed it with the air cranked up so cold. He said he didn't care.

Several years later Campbell came to visit me after I had gotten married and was living in Newton, Alabama. After all these years Campbell still believed I had put that snake on him. I once again explained to him how I came into the room and found it freezing and concerned for my snake's life I released him from the wall locker to seek out its own heat. I told Don the snake was just seeking out his own kind and found him when it made its way into Don's bed.

Campbell was W01 when he arrived in Korea. He wasn't fresh out of flight school though like most WOJGs arriving in Korea. Don had spent a year at Fort Hood in Texas. I don't recall all the details about how he slipped out of the States so quick, but Don was both a good friend and a good pilot. We were downtown in the Ville one night eating yakimandu and drinking Peach Oscar champagne. Campbell stepped out of the joint a couple of minutes before I did. The exit door emptied into a side alley. When I stepped into the alley, I saw standing by a wall surrounded by half a dozen Korean soldiers. Don was giving all the Koreans a cussing and calling them out. I had no idea what wound Don up, but I quickly discerned that he wasn't in a very good position. After my quick appraisal of the situation, I grabbed Don by his collar and threw him up against the wall and sternly told him, "Straighten up boy! What's wrong with you?" Don's countenance changed from anger to compliance. I looked at the Korean soldiers who showed no signs of anger, just curiosity at this crazy American and a wondering of what Campbell thought he would do, and I said, "ChoSumNeDa. MeHanMeDa." (It's good. I'm sorry.) The Koreans nodded and went about their business and Don and I left unharmed.


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