Creepy Critter Capers
If you guys out there think this is another barhopping, chasing girls tale please stop reading now and go back to what you were doing. But if you would like to read a couple of stories about my run-ins with Thailand's various creepy critters that can bite, sting, or inject you with poison get comfortable and read on.
I was working on my souped-up Suzuki and was laying on the driveway just getting started to work when I had a run-in with a creepy crawler. And that got me to thinking back to all the times I had problems with critters here in Thailand.
Way back when I first started coming to Thailand I was working with the Lao Hmong resistance fighters along the Lao/Thai border. I was teaching them murder, mayhem, and how to blow things up …… no no just kidding I was really giving them instructions on humanitarian aid projects. I had my first caper on one fateful night just getting into the border area.
We had to infiltrate the area at "O Dark Thirty", for you non-military types that's about 2 AM just after the bars close, and I was walking along with my Hmong interpreter Cheng. These guys had a surprise for me, while walking along relatively flat areas my long legs were leaving these guys in the dust and I thought this was going to be easy….. wrong. As soon as we got to the very steep mountain trials their short, stubby legs became an advantage and they started leaving me in the dust. We had been walking all night up and down mountain trails with me panting like a worn out soi dog trying to keep up with these little mountain climbing experts. Finally it started to get light enough to see where I was going so I could avoid all the tree roots that extend across the trail that kept tripping me up all night. We came to a relatively flat area and I had regained enough wind to find myself walking alongside Chen at the head of the column of Hmong fighters and there in the middle of the trail was a spot of earth that was exposed to the just rising sun.
When I was a kid we used to catch snakes all the time to scare and or impress all the little girls that used to hang around our "Gang" so I did not yet have the necessary fear of snakes that you need to survive in Thailand.
So back to the trail. In the middle of the trail laying in that sunlit patch of earth was a snake just sunning itself. Now this snake was about 3 feet long and I wasn't scared …….. yet!! I was wearing god old American made combat boots but the Hmong were all wearing 10 baht cheap rubber flip-flops. Chen yelled something and pushed me out of the way and ran over and started jumping up and down on the snake and don't forget he was wearing only rubber flip-flops. I had been walking using a section of bamboo as a walking stick so I thought I would give Chen a hand with the snake. I pushed Chen aside and used the stick to roll the now dazed snake up like spaghetti on the end of the stick and kinda flicked it up into the air and over the side of the mountain. I felt proud of myself for handling this snake problem when Chen ruined my day by saying "Mr. John there might be people down there" indicating the direction I had flicked the snake. I thought to myself "so what, maybe someone would get startled by a snake dropping out of the sky" and then Chen dropped the bomb ….. "Mr. John snake there BITE YOU KILL YOU". I felt a little faint and started yelling at Chen up one side and down the other about why in hell he had jumped on the snake with his flip-flops making me think this snake was "no Problem".
Now the kicker … his "reason" for taking on this deadly snake wearing only flip-flops. It seems that the "Leader" of this group of Hmong had told the men that we farang, that were helping the Hmong, "were too valuable to lose" and any "commander" that "lost" one of us farang would have a high price to pay to the leader for his incompetence.
We continued on with me looking at the ground and surrounding jungle with new respect. We finally made it to the Hmong's basecamp in the middle of the jungle and I noticed the lack of any wildlife around the camp. Then I noticed all the Hmong including the grown-ups were carrying slingshots. A commotion erupted on the other side of the camp and I ran over thinking we were under attack. But it was only that someone had spotted a little tiny tweety bird flitting between tree branches and all the Hmong had pulled out their slingshots and were trying to hit this little tiny bird. Finally someone scored a hit on the bird and it fell to the ground to be immediately pounced on by a horde of Hmong. It turned out that the Hmong had little or no food and were starving so they ate anything and everything they could get their hands on. Which leads us to the second caper.
Things were going well with me doing my instructor thing and the Hmong soaking up all the knowledge of the black arts that I could teach them when at the back of the classroom everybody started running out of the classroom yelling about a Cobra. Now after the first caper I was a little more respectful of snakes and thought the snake was coming into the bamboo hut that served as my classroom and everybody was trying to escape. Wrong …. one of my students had spotted the Cobra and the poor Cobra was now being chased by a bunch of hungry Hmong trying to catch some lunch. This Cobra was about five feet long and a serious contender for the most scary snake I had ever run into. The Cobra figured that honor was the better part of valor and was making a hasty retreat in the face of all these hungry Hmong. The Cobra made it to a wall of the mountain that had been scrapped bare of foliage and made one last stand by rising up and giving out that scary hissing sound
that a pissed-off Cobra makes before it strikes. The hungry Hmong would not be deterred and kept advancing on this poor Cobra. The Cobra gave up the ghost and started into a hole in the side of the hill and the race was on with the Hmong battling with each other as to who would be first to grab the Cobra's tail before the Cobra could get all the way into the hole. The now fleeing Cobra had made it into the hole and the race was on. Now the Hmong are like the Thais in that they are not the most productive people around and are known to drop off to sleep any time or place but today they were working like a well oiled team. Digging implements were quickly rounded up and soon dirt was flying every which way as the Hmong started hand excavating that hole in the dirt trying to capture that Cobra for lunch. But this day the Cobra won, after about 5 minutes the Hmong decided that expending anymore energy trying to get to this Cobra were counter-productive and they gave up. When we returned to class I asked Chen what would the Hmong have done if they found the Cobra in the hole and he reported knowledgeably that the Cobra can't strike from a full horizontal position and they would just have grabbed it for lunch, I took him at his word.
Back to the farang being too valuable to lose. I had noticed that the Hmong would not let me near the front of operations and they all had these elaborate Tattoos. I asked about them and was told they were "special protective" tattoos and if you had them nobody could "Shoot you kill you". It was explained to me that if I had some of these "special" tattoos I could not be shot or harmed by lots of other dangerous things. Now wanting to lead by example I asked if I had some of these tattoos if they would allow me to do more things and lead from the front and they said yes if I had then there would be "No Problems". So remembering all the critters I was running into I ended up returning to the States and getting three of these "protective" tattoos and now that I was "protected" I could do what I wanted as no one could "Shoot me kill me". More on the Tattoos later.
To get to the third caper we have to jump forward to 2/3/39 Thai time (2nd March 1996). I was at my future ex-wife's parents' house on the outside of Korat which was a typical Thai wood side, tin roof, two story no interior wall rural house. Sleeping arrangements for us were on the second floor and they consisted of a mattress on the floor, mosquito net, and luckily for me, a fan.
It was the middle of the night and we were sleeping soundly when she let out a scream about something biting her and she jumped up and was jumping around in the pitch dark swatting at her body. During all this commotion her sister, who was sleeping with her boyfriend on the other side of the room, was astute enough to turn on the one hanging free light bulb throwing some weak light on the problem at hand. In my startled awake from a deep sleep condition I had one eye opened enough to see a 3 inch white Scorpion running
across her bare back. My stress level quickly jumped into the red zone and I quickly reached out and swiped the scorpion from her back. Then I made my big mistake! In my confused state I thought "if this little bastard gets away I won't be able to sleep worrying about where it went" so I dropped down to the mattress where the scorpion was just laying there and swatted it with my bare hand trying to squash it. Bad move ….. as the stinger was pointing up in the air and it was driven into the palm of my hand. The pain was instantaneous and was like the worst Wasp sting you can imagine. The stinger was broken off in the wound and I had a small black dot imbedded in my palm for about 3 months. The hand swelled up about twice normal size and by now everyone in the house was awake and trying to figure out was to do. They asked "was I going to puke", "was my hand tingling", and "was I going to pass out?" it was no to all the above symptoms I just had pain. Well they all decided that I could not go back to sleep as I might pass out and not wake up from the effects of the bite and I figured I might as well go along with their "country medicine" advice as I would never be able to sleep anyway.
Now flash ahead to the very next night…. normally when we slept there and I had to get up for a middle of the night piss I would not turn on the light hanging in the middle of the room as that would wake up everyone else that had happened to be sleeping there. I would walk barefooted down the stairs using whatever ambient light was available and into the typical hole in the ground Thai rural bathroom. Now this night the future ex-wife had brought out my mini-mag flashlight and after getting stung twice by the scorpion the night before she kept me awake all night flashing the light around looking for approaching scorpions. So I decided to use the flashlight to get down the stairs this one time. I started down the stairs and reached the bottom and started across the cement floor when something caught my eye and when I shinned the flashlight in the direction I was going I almost had a heart attack as right in my intended path was the biggest blackest scorpion I had ever seen. If I had taken one more step I would have stepped right on top of this monster. I jumped back yelling and spotted a broom next to me and I grabbed that broom and whacked that scorpion several hundred times until I was sure it was dead. Upon checking the squashed mess that was a large scorpion, it had to be at least six inches long and dark black. By now the whole house was awake and when they saw the mess their eyes got big as saucers and they asked if this scorpion had stung me and I said no and asked why they were so concerned and they said "SCORPION THIS STING YOU KILL YOU" (where have I heard this before?). Needless to say we did not spend too many more nights there but I did get another tattoo to commemorate the event that is why I can be so sure of the date.
Now we jump back to the present day and the event that got this story rolling. With my present wife I live on the outskirts of Bangkok and actually have a small front yard with a 25' X 20' grass lawn area. We have had a few 3 foot green garden type snakes come in to the yard and they were quickly dispatched with my trusty snake killing hoe, and we even had a baby 2 foot cobra one time. The only advice my wife gave me in killing these snakes was not to chop off their heads, to squash their heads as when you chop them off the body continues to wiggle around spraying snake blood making a mess to clean up.
This started as a fine day, it was bright and sunny after several days of clouds and rain and I decided to look at my car as there was a clunking coming from one of my Suzuki's rear springs. I got out my trusty working on the car portable fan, toolbox, jack, and towel for laying on the cement and started to work. I had just put down the towel and had checked the spring and saw that a spring clap had worked itself forward and I thought a slight
adjustment with my favorite "ball peen hammer" should suffice. I rolled out and grabbed the ball peen and was just starting to whack the clamp when I felt something run across my chest. I was dressed in my Bangkok finery consisting of shorts and flip-flops so my chest was bare and it was a real creepy feeling to have something crawl across my chest. I looked to my left and there is was ….. a 6 inch poisonous centipede!! It looked like the
tail part of a scorpion but 6 inches long and with 2 large fangs sticking out the front and it was turning around the look me in the eye! I whacked my forehead on the bottom of the car frame trying to get out of the way but then remembered my trusty ball peen hammer in my other hand. That creepy crawler was heading my way so I reached across by body and my aim was dead on and I popped that critter right on it's head giving off a sound like when you squash a large cockroach with a good stomp. The only problem was when I
popped his head all the gooey stuff that was inside the critter was now splattered all over my bare arm and chest. The little woman had now come out to investigate why I was yelling like a crazy farang and when she saw the critter she jumped back and when she saw the goop on my arm and chest she turned white and asked me if the critter had stung me and I said no and then she asked if that was critter goop on my body and I said yes and she grabbed my arm and dragged me over to the outside hose connection and started dousing my body with cold water without saying a word. When she was done I asked her why she was making like a mad woman and drenching my shorts and my body with cold water and she replied with the now familiar "THING THERE STING YOU KILL YOU". So now I have decided that anytime I am working under my car I will have to have her on "Critter watch" as I think I have used up all my 9 lives meeting with Thailand's Creepy Critters.