February 21, 1969

When I first arrived in Vietnam, the orientation instructor asked if anyone was from Texas. I raised my hand proudly along with other proud Texans. He asked "Have you ever seen a Texas Longhorn?" I nodded my head to indicate I had seen one. He looked at me and said "You havenít seen anything yet."

I was beginning to enjoy the SRP (Short Range Patrols). We were normally within a mile of the larger unit thus the phrase Short Range. We would go out in 4 man teams and spend 3 or 4 days being a listening and watching post for the larger unit.

The downside to being a SRP was that the unit was small and could not overpower the enemy in a face to face confrontation. On the upside we werenít looking for a fight so we had to stay quiet and stay hidden. During the day I would read and write letters. At night we would take turns staying awake to watch and listen.

I had already been warned that one of my team members was not very dependable. I was not that surprised to wake up and find him asleep during his watch. What I was not prepared for was how loud the man could snore. When your safety is based on the fact no one knows you exist, snoring is not good.

We were very close to a Montagnard village and we could hear the sounds of daily activities in the village. The Montagnard people are ancestor worshippers. The second night we were there some of montagnard people came out to the graveyard and begin to make sounds that were either:

  • singing
  • crying or
  • wailing.
Whichever it was, once in a lifetime is enough for me. My worst fear was they may have interpreted snoring from our camp as evil spirits or a message from their ancestors. If anything would ward off evil spirits, the village serenade would surely do it.

The next morning, as I was preparing for a restful day of watching and listening, I heard the sounds of breaking brush. I sat up and I looked the aggressor straight in the eyes as he continued to walk toward me. There was no time for anything but evasive action. I grabbed my rifle in one hand and the radio in the other as the four of us deserted our post and most of our gear. As I hid behind a tree I looked back to see our listening post being overrun.

Water Buffalo
The instructor was right. There is nothing like looking into the eyes of a water buffalo. One of my men speculated that the village or spirits had sent the water buffalo. I could not agree with the logic, but I was in total agreement with the conclusion. It was time to move further away from the village.

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©1997 C. Warren Gallion
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