Just A Little Walk In The Woods
with the Delta Raiders
Company D, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile)
Ray "Blackie" Blackman
Company D, 2nd Battalion, 501st Infantry
There are constant reminders of Vietnam all around us in our every day life. Every time I hear the distinct sound of a chopper, I get a chill up my spine. I stop what I'm doing, wherever I am, and scan the skies. If I find it up there, I watch it until it's out of sight, half expecting it to land at my feet.
When I spot a Phantom, which is often as I live near the Air National Guard, I get the chill, my heart goes wild and I start to sweat. If you have ever been close to an air strike and have heard the huge shrapnel chopping down trees nearby, then you know the feeling.
When several "reminders" combine together, there is a chance that the Nam instincts will find a way from the corner of your mind where they lay in wait till needed again.
Early Spring, 1984
After getting home from work, I decided to go fishing. Solid gray clouds filled the sky and there was a steady mist, you know the kind, not really raining, just wet all over. I didn't think about it at the time, but it was very much like a typical monsoon day.
Anyway, I've always had pretty good luck catching fish in this kind of weather.. so I grabbed my lantern, two fishing poles, a cooler of beer, some worms, and jumped in my truck.
"I'm gonna catch me a bunch of fish, man!"
Since it was late afternoon, I decided to try my luck at the lake near my place. I parked my truck across the road from a wooded area where the main lake formed an inlet.
After crossing the road, I found myself in a thick wooded area with heavy underbrush and tall weeds. Man, this looks familiar! Next time I fish here I'll bring my corn knife to cut a trail.
After working my way to the inlet, I settled in forsome serious fish catching.
|I sat on a log along the bank with my feet dangling a couple feet above the water. Boy, would I just love to have a nice mess of big old Catfish for supper.|
A couple hours and a few beers went by. I was doing pretty good, there were a few fish on my stringer and the beer was going down REAL easy. I remember thinking to myself how peaceful it was sitting there alone without a care in the world. Everything had just turned green, and after being cooped up all winter it was nice to just sit there among nature and daydream the hours away.
It was starting to get dark so I would have to fire up the lantern soon.
Then it happened!
There was a loud "CRACK... THUMP!!" right behind me.
In an instant I was on my belly and down the bank with my feet in the water.
I peeked over the log that I had been sitting on, wishing I had a helmet.
The next thought that popped into my mind was, "I don't have a gun, man!!!" This can't be happening to me. How did they find me after all these years?.. It's gotta be the NVA we were fighting on 805.
|Think man... you gotta get outa here, NOW!!! Then my mind went to work. The truck is only about a half mile from here.. I'll have to cross the road. I could crawl through the woods.. NO, I can't leave the same way I came in.. might be an ambush. I could swim to the culvert that goes under the road, crawl through, and have an easy hump to my truck. They would be looking for me on the road, and the culvert would get me past them. I could just see myself breast-stroking toward the culvert with a stinking knife tightly clenched in my teeth.|
What if they're waiting for me at the truck??.. Well, then I could hump across the fields to my house, pick up my old 22 automatic, then come back and nail them! This little war will be held on my turf, so I'll have the advantage this time.
Where are they? How many? What do they have for weapons? If I sneak out, they might follow me home. No, I gotta end this here and now.. I'm sick of running!
Maybe this was supposed to happen. I don't know, like some sort of un-finished business.
I've got an old rusty fishing knife. That will help. I can make some spears!! I've got some gas in the lantern. What can I use for a fuse? They know I'm alone. Why haven't they come yet? Better slide to the side.. an RPG could hit that branch above my head.
What am I thinking? This can't be REAL! Just calm down. Why would they go through all this trouble just to get ME?.. I've got to take it easy and think this out.
It was probably just a dead branch falling from a tree!! I'm just gonna open another beer (my old one was spilled when I dug in) and continue fishing. I'll be a little more quiet though. I don't think I'll fire up the lantern either. Well, I guess my survival instincts are still intact.
I quietly re-baited my lines, popped open another beer (with my hand cupped over the top), lit a cigarette (cupped), and went on fishing. Every noise I heard was magnified, and I was shaking from head to toe, even though I wasn't scared anymore.
All of this happened in a fraction of a second. Am I crazy or what?
I tried to force myself to think of something different. It was no use. My mind was riveted on Vietnam and all the un describable feelings that a grunt had while being hunter/hunted in those jungles. There was no way to change it.
I tried to think about the "Good Times" over there.. the mud slide, the mail bag. I recalled every detail.. I wasn't shaking so bad anymore. I thought about all the funny things that had happened to me.
I was calm now, though still very alert.
When the fish stopped biting and my cooler went dry, I reluctantly decided to go on home. I calmly, but quietly worked my way toward the truck in a way that any of you old point men would be proud.
My wife asked me how I had gotten so muddy.
I told her, "I slipped!!"
I have thought a lot about what happened in my mind that night. It seems the monsoon type rain, nightfall, the "jungle" area I was in.. then the branch that fell, all contributed to my slipping into the grunt instincts that had been laying dormant, on the tip of my brain, just waiting for a reason to be dusted off and used again.
The situation was the formula that had transformed me, from a mild mannered, totally relaxed fisherman, into the fighting survivalist that I sometimes think of as just a figment of my imagination.
below are links to more
Hill 100 | Delta Raiders Overrun Outpost | Infantry, Arty Chew Up NVA Unit
Going Home | Heavy Fighting Near Bastogne | Hill 805, A First Sergeant Remembers
The Introduction | Across The River & Into... | Raiders "Lighten The Load"
You should know Joe Hooper | Most decorated soldier dies | The List
Airborne Trooper Saves Girl | Flashback | Night Sweats | 'Grunt' More Than A Name
Delta Raiders Ambushed Near Firebase Bastogne | To My Dad on Veterans Day