Injuries and Things

NCS Agana, Guam map

This is probably going to be my only post about my time in Guam, (Aug. 1977 – Apr. 1979) but not because I didn’t have any fun there. It’s a sad but true fact that members of the military services were not particularly well liked or well treated back in the 60s, 70s and much of the 80s. Some places were worse than others as far as that goes, and Guam and Hawaii were two places where the military was especially disliked at the time. I don’t know how it is now.

During my 20 months on Guam I never found a little corner bar type place (like Noah’s Ark in Okinawa) where military personnel were welcome and I never met anybody else who did either. So, most of my spare time there was spent playing softball and golf (which I played as often as I could afford), and most of our trips to beaches for cook-outs and frizbee and stuff were to ones on military bases (mostly at Agana itself or at Pati Point on Anderson AFB).

But . . . these posts are about fun and/or funny things that happened while I was in the Navy, and I’m not going to get into the whys of that shit . . . so enough about that.

I lived in the barracks at Agana, Guam for the whole time I was stationed there, but I worked at a transmitter site called Barrigada.

NTF Barrigada Guam 1

NTF Barrigada, Guam

Most of the guys I hung out with for my whole time there also worked at Barrigada, and five of us (Mark, Ed, Joe, Benny and I) spent a couple of seasons in a bowling league. We called ourselves ‘The Pretenders’, the running joke being because we were pretending we knew how to bowl, but actually the name was influenced by the Jackson Browne album of the same name.

I don’t recall ever actually repairing a single transmitter the whole 18 months I was stationed in Okinawa, but at Barrigada something clicked. I don’t exactly what, when or how it happened, it just did. I was especially good at the power supply, IPA (intermediate power amp), and PA stages.

NTF Barrigada Guam 2

AN/FRT-40 100KW HF Transmitter

Benny Allen started calling me IPA Bob, and one of the Radiomen (I don’t remember his real name, but he called himself Doctor Touchenstein – Dr. T for short) started calling me SuperTech (in a cartoon-ish sort of way). While I secretly liked both names, I wasn’t real fond of being called them out loud. Benny and I could roughly tune one of those to the right place (using the black knobs on the second and third sections) before powering them up just by knowing the frequency ahead of time.

Those are some of the ‘Things’ from the title.

As far as the ‘Injuries’ go the lesser of the two happened when I was playing softball a couple of months before I left. I hit a slow-rolling infield grounder at the time and the first baseman was blocking the base as I got there, so I had to step over his leg in order to tag the base. I was safe by just a bit, but I turned my ankle out sideways as I tagged first and heard a really icky crunching sound as I did. I thought I might have broken it at the time, but it turned out that sound was just a couple of ligaments being stretched out way too far.

The doctor said later that I probably would have been better off if I had broken it. It would have healed more cleanly. Since VA medical coverage does not include ‘sports medicine’, especially for recreational leagues, I spent about a week on crutches and about a month with ankle wraps before I could walk semi pain free.

The second ‘Injury’ was actually the first – time wise – and happened at one of the few off-base places we visited often—Talofofo Falls.

Talofofo Falls

This place appears to be protected now, but back then people visited and spent the day at the falls on a regular basis.

One of the things all visitors to the falls were warned about right away was that there was a fairly large rock about eight feet under the surface right in the middle of the pond below the falls. While diving from the large rock on the left side of the falls (from this vantage) was not strictly prohibited, it was highly recommended that only shallow type dives be attempted.

But I, in my 22+ years of wisdom at the time, decided to try a 1½. I aimed (or thought I did, anyway) away from the rock, and while I did manage to complete an acceptable dive, I also grazed the rock with my head. I still had my hands in front of me, and did catch the rock with them first, but I couldn’t quite keep myself from grazing it.

It didn’t hurt at all, and I thought I was okay as I got out of the pool. Mark was complaining that I hadn’t given him a warning I was going to do that, so he didn’t get a picture of it. While he was doing that a woman walking by said, “You’re ear is bleeding.”

I’m like, “Really?” and started feeling the top of my head because that’s where I hit the rock. It turned out the young woman was a nurse or something, so she looked at the wound and said I was going to need some stitches, and should do so immediately. So we had to leave after being there for only about 20 minutes or so (which caused a fair amount of more bitching from Mark).

I finished the beer I’d already opened as we packed up to leave. Turned out the nearest military hospital was quite a ways away (about two more beers) and by the time I got there and it was determined I’d need four stitches, it was also determined I didn’t need any anesthetic—and they were right. That didn’t hurt either.

Leaving Okinawa

This one needs a bit of a set-up before I get to the day the packers (not the Packers) and the inspector came to pack up, inspect and send all my stuff on to my next duty station, Guam.

The Set Up

I came home early one morning after a night out (maybe 3 am or so) and went to the fridge and grabbed the milk for a swig or two before going to bed. I only bought half gallons back then because a whole gallon usually went bad on me before I could drink it all. Anyway, I was taking a drink out of the carton when I noticed this grey sort of shapy thing out of the corner of my eye on my left and turned to see what it was. What it was, was a freaking cane spider about the size of my hand.

Now, it’s possible (and even probable) that my mind has exaggerated the size of that spider over the years, but the damn thing was BIG I’m telling you, and it scared the shit out of me.

Cane Spider

This is not the actual spider from then; I never consciously let it crawl on me. This photo does approximate what was in front of my face that day, though.

I’m pretty sure I teleported to the middle of my kitchen, because I don’t remember actually moving there. I just know that one second I was standing at my refrigerator with a giant spider a couple inches from my face, and then I was ten feet away with milk coming out of my nose and coughing “HOLY SHIT!”

I considered, and immediately dismissed, any thought of squishing it for two reasons:

  •  Because it would have been really ickily messy, and

  •  I wasn’t sure what might happen if I missed

Instead, I got out my handy dandy can of Raid (Okinawa also has a fairly large species of cockroach that can fly, so I always had a can of Raid around) and sprayed that thing thoroughly. In fact, I emptied about half a can on the thing but it didn’t move or react in any way. I’d swear the damn thing just gave me a sort of ‘meh’ shrug.

So, with the Raid being ineffective and me being unwilling to squish it, I made a deal with it instead. I said, and I did literally say this out loud. “If you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone.” I said a lot of other things too, but I don’t remember all of the exact words. As far as I know, it accepted the deal because, while huntsman type spiders aren’t dangerously poisonous, their bites are very painful and leave a noticeable mark (so I’ve read) and I never woke up with a bite. It went about its business of eating the occasional cockroach, I’m guessing, and I went about mine.

And that’s the setup.

Leaving

The navy sent some local company to pack up my things a few days before I was to leave, and the air force sent an inspector to make sure I wasn’t taking anything I shouldn’t (such as local flora and fauna, etc.)

I was in the bedroom with the movers watching them pack up the stuff the inspector had already approved, and she was in the kitchen checking the rest of the stuff I’d already sorted through and decided to take with me. Suddenly there was this very high-pitched scream from the kitchen, and – I really really didn’t mean to, but – I could help laughing just a little, because I knew what had happened.

I said, “I take it you met my spider.”

There was only silence for a few seconds, and the a very soft voice said, “Yes.

The two movers were saying, “Nan de? Nan de?” which is essentially “What? What?” so I tried to tell them what happened, but I didn’t know the Japanese word for spider and they didn’t speak English. Finally I just made my hand run across the floor and said “Oki.” which means big.

It wasn’t exactly the proper word or context, but they got the idea and both ran into the kitchen to see it. I followed them. I guess her scream startled the spider enough that it ran back behind the refrigerator where it lived, though, because it was gone when we got out there.

The inspector was still standing in the middle of the room, looking kinda shocked. I said, “I’m sorry. I probably should have told you about it, but it doesn’t usually come out in the daytime. I don’t know why it did today. It scared the crap out of me, too, the first time I met it.”

I told her the full story behind my first meeting with the spider, (which I never named in case you’re wondering). She got a hold of herself pretty quickly after that, and even smiled a little bit when she saw that the movers were trying to crane around behind the fridge to see the spider, (I’d shown them where it went).

So even a plain old ordinary thing like moving ended up having a story for me to tell, all because my spider chose then to make a rare daytime appearance. 🙂