by Peter Birrow
Oh, the snakes crawl at night that's what they say
When the sun goes down then the snakes will play....."
Huh! City boy that I was, Charlie Pride's 1966 song about Mr. Snake sure sounded like a fairy tale to me. Snakes at night, no way! But I found out the hard way one night in February of 1969.
Bravo 2/35 was on a hump for most of the day in the relatively flat Plei Me area of the Ia Drang Valley. As the afternoon wore down we finally reached our objective and set up for the night. As was our style, we did not dig in for a one night stand, but just rolled out the old air mattress and collapsed on it. That well used piece of rubber probably did not hold air anyway.
Being one of the company RTO's has a little advantage to it, We always set up in the middle of the company while they strung out in a defensive circle for the night. To my left was another CP member (I think it was Pete Petersen) who was about eight feet away from me. As the sun went down and the jungle got dark and somewhat quiet, we finally went to sleep.
Unknown to me as we dozed off, was the fact that our location was within hearing distance of a major road. In the middle of the night we woke up startled to the sound of truck convoy pounding gears over a rough road. When I say startled, I mean it! I grabbed my rifle and quickly rolled to the left off of the air mattress and onto my stomach. At that same time Pete (the other Pete) did the same move to the right. Now there was only a three foot space between us as we aimed our M-16's towards that startling noise. Now for the "Three-Pete"!
We were not the only two animals in the woods that were startled by that convoy. Mr. Snake was petrified also and his reaction was to didi mau and slither between us. As quickly as he could he took off in search of a new night location.
That snake was soooooo long it seemed like it took fifteen seconds for his tail to clear us. Now don't forget that the area he was moving in was less than a yard stick wide. What a relief to know that he was now gone from our sleeping area. Charlie Pride was obviously right and now the city boy is a little bit wiser.
"So I waited in the shadows until morning and the gun I held was trembling in my hand
No I did not mean to give them any warning for the devil on my shoulder had command"
A big, belated thank you to Charlie, who is still on his road tours singing away so smoothly.