Many readers tell me they enjoy my Newspaper Days columns about my years running small town newspapers, and a few have asked about my time in the Army. I don’t feel the need to tell any war stories here, and most people don’t want to hear them anyhow. But I will tell you about the time I got rabies.
For a young soldier far from home in a world like none he had ever experienced before, Vietnam was a very scary place. Besides the people who wanted to kill you, there were booby traps that wanted to maim you, vegetation that wanted to strangle you, animals that wanted to eat you, and snakes and spiders that just scared the hell out of you. Oh yeah, some of the snakes could kill you, too, so there’s that.
It seemed like the entire country was full of rats, which surprised me because the locals seemed to kill and eat of lot of them. But there were always plenty more to take their place. They bred like, well, rats.
Once when we were at a base camp in Tây Ninh, I was sleeping in a crude hooch and a rat ran across the top of my cot. It scared me and I slapped at it, and in return, it bit me on the ear lobe and ran away.
I was an eighteen year old kid, and I momentarily thought about cutting my ear off before the disease could spread, but I figured that would hurt. So I went to our medic instead, and told him a rat bit me and I needed rabies shots. He said I didn’t need rabies shots and slapped some MercuroChrome on the bite and sent me away.
Being paranoid, even back then, I read my field medical manual and went back the next day and told the medic I knew I had rabies. He asked why I thought I had rabies, and I showed him the manual. I had the symptoms. I was hot, thirsty, had dry mouth, anxiety, and was irritable. He laughed and said it was Vietnam. Everybody was hot, thirsty, had dry mouth, anxiety, and was irritable. Besides, he told me, the treatment for rabies was a series of eighteen shots in the stomach, and they hurt like hell. Now I was wishing I had cut my ear off.
For the next two weeks, I stayed right next to that damn medic. So close that I could have reached out and touched him. He finally asked what the hell I was doing, and I told him that the minute I started foaming at the mouth, I was biting him!
Well, as it turned out, he was right. I didn’t have rabies after all. Looking back on it, I sure am glad I didn’t cut my ear off!
Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of The Three Pirates – Famous Murderous Pirate Books Series: The Islet of the Virgin. This is book 4 in my friend Ken Rossignol’s pirate book series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.
Thought For The Day – Don’t bother walking a mile in my shoes. That would be boring. Spend 30 seconds in my head. That will freak you right out.