“What about the Bears”?

When I told my mom that I was going to be hiking the entire Appalachian Trail, her immediate question was; “What about the bears”?. I shrugged it off and replied; “I’m more worried about the ticks and mosquitoes than the bears”. Much like any mothers concern, she worried for my safety!

Ticks have a subtle way of climbing up a leg or dropping from a tree limb undetected. They scurry to the warmest nether regions of the human anatomy undetected and latch on for a meal of blood. They carry Lyme Disease and this worries me the most!

This reminds me of something that occurred in 2003.

While stationed at the time, at an undisclosed military base in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Myself and two fellow soldiers were manning a guard tower overlooking a gate that led out to a firing range. This gate was manned by three host country soldiers. They were seated at a plastic table outside the typical mud building of that region and, were carrying on in conversation. There was a large spotlight shining upon their seating area, of which I will explain later. We had been watching them for a few hours when suddenly, about 2a.m., they summoned us with a whistle and in their best broken English gestured; “come, come”. We all three looked at one another and the other two guys told me they weren’t going down there. We were a little leery of them, they were armed with American made M-16’s! I figured, what the hell, I’ll go find out what they wanted. So, I grabbed my M-16 and climbed down from our perch to go see what they wanted. I walked over to where they were seated and greeted them the way we were taught, by putting my hand across my heart and stumbling with my worst Arabic greeting! They offered me a seat at their table. One of the men went off to one of the rooms in the outbuilding. It was apparent that they were making tea. I knew this because, I smelled the sweet aroma known to every Southerner! This is what they wanted us to come down for. I was set at ease and much relieved! They were offering us some Chai. I was curious as to how they prepared this tea, so I walked over to their kitchen to watch the gentleman make it. He had a kettle of boiling water on a hot plate. Once it came to a boil, he added the sugar. If you think the tea down South is sweet, we have nothing on these guys. He must have dumped half a pound of sugar in this kettle. He let it dissolve a bit and then added what appeared to be ground up tea leaves to the mix. It steeped for a very short time and then he poured this sweet mixture into what appeared to be over-sized shot glasses. I later learned why such small glasses. We returned to the table, I offered them some of my American cigarettes. (They loved our cigarettes). We all raised our glasses in an awkward toast and I chugged mine down like I would a shot of Jack. Holy Hell in a handbasket, it was the strongest tea that’s ever crossed my palette! Apparently you are to sip this tea, not shoot it! Hot, very sweet and STRONG! I’ll explain later what happened to my second glass.

While seated at the table I noticed that they all had their feet up on the vacant chairs. I asked them why, and they immediately took out their flashlight and showed me the dead scorpions they had stomped earlier. There must have been a dozen or more. Apparently, from what I gathered from their broken English and sign language, there was an insect that they feared more than the scorpion. With hand gestures and pointing at their pants legs, I learned that there was an insect that would climb up inside a pants leg and, make the hanging parts of the male genitalia apparently swell up to such a size that you would require a wheelbarrow to carry these swollen parts in, once bitten. I put my feet in the chair!

After sharing my cigarettes and chatting a while, a HMMWV pulled up with apparently was their superior officer. They had poured me another shot of tea, and I had been nursing it with very tiny sips. When they all rose from their seats to go greet this officer, I proceeded to toss the remaining tea over my shoulder! Their superior came over and I told him that his soldiers had graciously offered me some of their fine tea. I offered him the rest of my pack of cigarettes and said my adieu’s and returned to my post. I was caffeinated and ready to run a 3-minute mile!




About William Guill

Bill is a two-tour veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He's embarking on a journey of a lifetime with 12 other fellow veterans in the Warrior Hike "Walk off the War" program to hike the Appalachian Trail. ~ From Springer Mountain, Georgia all the way to the terminus of the trail at Mount Katahdin, Maine. Roughly 2200 miles of trail to be conquered starting March 17th, 2013. Let the journey begin!
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