by D. E. Twitchell

One morning while on patrol as West Bank Supervisor, I heard a radio call to the Ft Clayton patrol. It seems that someone had found a snake on their patio and wanted it removed. My only thought at the time was “Boy I’m glad that’s not me” as I continued on with what I thought would be just another beautiful and uneventful tropical day.

About a half an hour later the patrol called in that they had the snake and wanted to know what they should do with it. How they caught it, I don’t know, but they had it in a gunnysack in the trunk of their patrol car. They were told to take it out to Curundu to the AF Survival School.

 In a little while I heard a nervous sounding voice on the radio saying something about they couldn’t find the snake. When they opened the trunk so the Panamanian guy who took care of the survival school could take the snake, the sack was empty. Nothing but a small hole in it and no snake…nowhere.

Since it was a slow day, everyone was listening and a few made some comments over the air. Pretty soon, one by one, the other patrols found a reason to stop by and see for themselves.   By the time I decided to go there, everyone except the Ft Kobbe patrol was there.

 It was then decided that the snake was somewhere in the car and someone should take the back seat out to see if it was there. We all started shuffling slowly backwards away from the car with that “who me?” look. Why is everyone looking at me? I’m afraid of snakes, I hate snakes. Where are the other Sergeants? Yeah I know, the smart ones saw this coming and decided it was a good time to go confer with the Panamanian guy.

 Ok, ok, I opened the back door and jerked the back seat out. No snake. Now the Patrol Supervisor “suggested” that I, since I had done “so good” with the seat, start the car and turn the heater on high. Thanks a lot Sarge. Next he sent a patrol to the company to get a couple of cans of army issue fly spray. By the time they got back, it was pretty warm inside that car. “So what’s he gonna do with the fly spray?” I wondered. Taking the jack handle from the trunk, he held it upright on the ground and took each can of fly spray and slammed the bottom of the can onto the upturned jack handle puncturing the cans and threw them into the car.

 Then we waited. Pretty soon someone saw movement in the headliner above the front passenger’s seat. Slowly a lump undulated from there toward the rear of the car. I hate snakes, but even I was starting to feel sorry for this one. Inside a closed up car with the heater running on high in the tropical heat and with the toxic fumes from the fly spray, that was one miserable snake. Pretty soon a snake’s head appeared at the top of the trunk and we called the Panamanian caretaker back to catch it.

 We asked him what kind of snake it was and he told us it was a “Hunter” snake. Is it poisonous? Oh yes. He took it over to the garden and turned it loose where it promptly caught and ate some unwary rodent and took a nap. We left.

One night while on patrol at Ft Kobbe I was driving to Kobbe Beach. It was a clear bright moonlit night, which gave the surrounding jungle a beautiful glow.

Just past the guard shack I saw a large Fer-de-lance.  I hit it with the car and felt the thump as I did. When I turned around to find it, it was gone. I drove back twice, but no snake. Now I’m getting paranoid. Where’s that snake? I know I hit it. So I drive to the beach to check the car out. I pull up to the guard and tell him to cover me while I open the hood as I think there may be a snake there.

He doesn’t seem too enthused, but makes a show. I look all over under the hood and under the car, but no snake. Don’t know what happened to it. When I get ready to leave the guard says “Oh Sarge I don’t know how to tell you this, but I ain’t got a firing pin in this shotgun.”


One of my favorite times of the day in the Canal Zone was dawn. When I was on midnight shift and things were slow toward the end of shift, I’d drive out the Ft Amador causeway to Scout Island and park on the beach. It was so peaceful to just sit and watch the waves while the sun came up.

March 20, 2000

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