Tuesday, October 03, 2006

People and Action

Vietnam countryside was beautiful and the Vietnamese were hard working people. I was amazed at how they squatted instead of sitting on chairs or stools. I didn't see such resting devices in the small villages throughout the countryside where we were. The natives, young and old, squatted in a circle with their bottoms only inches off the ground and their knees at shoulder height. They sat this way for long periods.

The Vietnamese were thin and diminutive. Their youth were beautiful with jet black straight hair and nice complexions. Everyone wore conical hats, pajama-like pants and sandals if they wore shoes at all. Sandal bottoms were sometimes made from old vehicle tires. I knew that from studying their tracks.

I saw a lone man in the country side work for days gathering rocks the size of a basketball. He brought them to an area and then broke them to the size of a tennis ball ( not nice and round of course). He accomplished this manually using a small hammer as he squatted over the rock. He accumulated the broken rocks into a neat pile shaped like a pyramid. When his rock pile got big enough, a truck driver arrived to help him load the rocks onto the truck for delivery somewhere.

I observed men, women, and children planting rice in knee-deep water. Along the coast and other waterways, I watched fishermen casting nets and pulling their catches into small boats. I saw small children herd cattle. Life in their countryside was low-key compared to life in towns we passed occasionally.

When I grew through teenage years, I loved to hunt and trap wildlife. I hunted squirrels and rabbits, set traps for rabbits, and never passed an opportunity to shoot at doves, raccoon, fox and quail.

After I returned from Vietnam, my desire of hunting left me. In part, this happened because in Vietnam I experienced the feeling of being stalked and hunted. I experienced the sound of high velocity rounds passing near my head. I walked along trails in platoon patrol formation when suddenly a finite clap of thunder snapped near me. I didn't hear a bang from the gun that opened fire on me. I couldn't determine the direction the projectile traveled. All I heard were sharp, distinct snaps in space that I felt I could reach out and touch. It was frightening to realize that I was in the gun sights of a sniper or guerrilla fighter.

I also know what it's like to be hit by exploding hand granade shrapnel that was thrown by enemy North Vietnamese soldiers. I, along with others, was evacuated from a battlefield by a medivac helicoptor to a field hospital to remove one small fragment from my flesh wound. After three days of light duty, I rejoined my combat unit in the field.

In the top picture I was resting in a small Montagnard village in the central highlands. The bottom picture shows a view from around the corner where I was seated.

Return here on Thursday, October 5 for more.

Have a good day!



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