BIG SNAKE!

 We have been stomping through the jungle around FSB-29 for a week now, looking for signs of the enemy.  Today we have about a six klick march to our night defensive position on a ridge line across the valley.  It's hot, real hot.  By mid afternoon, the temperature is around 100 degrees.  Most of us carry 4-6 quarts of water and refill at every stream we cross.  We have just reached the valley floor and refilled our canteens.  We ate a cold C-ration lunch while we were stopped.  After a fifteen minute rest, we start up the other ridge line.  Most of the way we have to haul ourselves up from root to root the slope is so steep.  We have been moving a few feet, stopping to catch our breath, regain our strength, and cool down before moving another few feet up the ridge.  It seems like we have been doing this for an eternity.  We all wonder how much longer before we crest the ridge.

Suddenly the word comes down the trail that there is a snake in the way.  I begin the strenuous task of moving up to the front of the column to see why a mere snake has stopped the entire platoon's forward advance.  The path cut out by the point men with machete's is only a few feet wide, so passing others is really difficult, since most of the hand and foot holds I need are already being used by the soldiers lying there exhausted trying not to slide back down the slope.  Eventually I reach the point man, who simply points above his head.  At first I am uncertain just what it is I am looking at.  It is about twelve feet further up the trail still partially hidden by the vegetation.   It looks like a log, but it has the definite markings of some kind of reptile, only it is way to big around to be a snake or lizard.  It is nearly a foot in diameter.  I need to get closer to figure out just what it is, but I am so exhausted from the climb, that I am trembling with fatigue.  I am also about to swoon from the heat my physical exertion generated.  I just lay there, panting. Bracing myself on a clump of bamboo I take a long drink from my canteen.  I even waste some water on my hair, to attempt to cool down more quickly.  My temples are pounding with the early signs of dehydration and heat exhaustion. Finally I drop my pack and climb up toward the mysterious shape ahead in the shadows.  As I get near the reality of it hits me with a chill.  It is the biggest snake I have ever seen, even on TV.  It appears to be dead.  At least it is not moving.  The size is so frightening, that I hesitate to attempt to get closer I am.  After summoning up my courage I move forward, finally stepping over it and sitting down just up hill from the creature.  I can now see that it is moving a fraction of an inch every few minutes.  From the motion I can tell that it's head must be to the right of the trail.  I can see about seven feet towards the head and five feet towards the tail.  I can see a full twelve feet of snake and it does not appear to get any smaller in diameter in either direction.

We could drop back and cut another path around the tail side and continue up the ridge, but I don't like the idea of losing sight of it and or having to double back and climb up the ridge again.  Stumbling onto this monster while cutting another path up hill is not a comforting thought.  I decide that if we simply step quietly over it, we should be safe.  I move back and after some smooth talking, convince the point man to follow me up the trail and across the body of the snake.  I stay just below the snake and persuade each man in turn to continue up the trail, helping them cross over the snake.  Sometimes just pushing their pack to give them a steadying hand, sometimes taking their rifle or pack and handing it to them once they are safely over. It takes a valuable hour to get all three dozen men over the obstacle.  Finally there is only the rear guard left.  He definitely does not want to cross over the snake.  He is afraid of snakes and this is the granddad of all snakes.  After pleading, giving a direct order, and everything else I could think of to get him to move up and join the rest of the platoon, I still can't get him to even approach the snake.  Finally I just tell him to wait until the snake is out of site and then make a run for it up the trail and catch up with us when he can.  I take off up the trail and tell everyone to move out.  The guys at the rear of the column ask about the soldier left behind.  I tell them to go ahead I'll wait for him.  I tell them that after a few moments all alone, he will probably get scared enough to catch up with us or else I will go back down with him and find another way up.

I wait for nearly fifteen minutes, the sounds of the platoon completely die out as they continue up the trail.  First I hear only silence.  Then I hear some real heartfelt profanity, some including references to my ancestry followed by the noise of exertion, panting, and feet scuffling.  Suddenly the soldier comes into sight, moves past me and with the snake safely below us he collapses.  He is totally spent.  I take my canteen and pour water over his head to cool him down.  Then when he gets his breathing under control I offer him some of my water to drink.  Finally past the fear he apologizes and I tell him not to worry. I hear a noise up ahead and call out.  It is another man from the platoon, carrying only his canteen and weapon.  He says the platoon is stopped on top of the ridge only about fifty yards ahead.  We move out and rejoin the column.  The rest of the march to the night position is uneventful and we manage to get there in time to dig in and clear fields of fire.  We even get to eat some heated C-rations before dark.  Everyone is talking about the snake. I now know that it was a constrictor, an Anaconda, some of which have been known to grow to over thirty feet and 500 lbs. I don't think any of us will ever forget climbing over that monster. We heard voices during the night, but they never came close enough to shoot at, so we just fired some sighted in artillery targets along the trail in their direction.




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