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You're in the Army Now
Part Three – "Now Y’all Watch Out For My Rat Snake, Y’all Hear?"
by Don Drewniak

Another Army E-4 and his wife lived in a trailer about thirty yards from ours. Both were from Massachusetts. Their friendship made life much easier that summer, especially for Dolores.

The owner of the trailer park was a woman who was probably in her forties. She collected rent once a week and did it riding bareback on a beautiful white stallion. After making her first rent collection from Dolores, she said (you guessed it), “Now, y’all watch out for my rat snake, y’all hear? He won’t do you no harm.” And off she went.

There was no snake, no matter how small or how harmless, that Dolores could think of as being harmless.

I walked into the house after the day’s duty and was greeted by a frantic-looking wife who screamed, “There is a giant snake near the clotheslines.”

Indeed, it was long. However, the “snake” was a black water hose partially concealed by grass and weeds. I resisted the urge to mock her and instead chose to tell her how I could see the hose could be mistaken for a snake.

We passed the first two months by hanging out with our neighbors, eating out on Friday nights and taking in a movie every other Saturday night or Sunday afternoon. The highlight was a weekend spent in the coastal city of Savannah.

Then came a miracle in early August, a few days before our third wedding anniversary. I received an order during the noon formation to report to company headquarters. After a moment of panic, I realized that this was not how Vietnam orders were handled. Nevertheless, I was quite nervous as I entered headquarters where I was greeted by a lieutenant colonel and two high-ranking sergeants.

After reviewing my educational background and my communications training, I was offered a guaranteed tour of duty in Taipei, Taiwan if I would extend my time in the Army by three months. I didn’t hesitate to accept the offer.

I thought that would mean fifteen months away from Dolores, but it turned out that we were apart for only five months. That is another story for another day.

My first day in Taipei was one of my most memorable.