Colin F. Jones

MEMORIES

You know, squatting here, presents me with no real problems, I actually like the darkness, and the pouring rain, I don’t mind the mud, and I have gotten used to the smell. I am not in love with the heat, but I have gotten used to that as well, and I am so wet all the time from sweat, it’s hard to tell when it’s wet from the rain or what. I stink, and my clothes are filthy and beginning to rot.

My mate is dozing… that’s ok; I will stay awake till my relief comes.

I am not afraid or anything, looking out through the strongpoint slit through the night scope which reveals a few bushes and trees, the perimeter wire, claymores, flares, and discarded, but still full cordite bags. I think it was one of my better ideas to lay the cordite bags out along the flare line.

Being alone for me is quite normal, and here I am in the middle of Vietnam, sitting in a hole in the ground, watching for Viet Cong in the middle of the night. I can in fact remember my very first time alone…

I was just 14 and because I did not go to School anymore I got this job. I was to spend a week with another lad at a place called the “Whip Mountain”. It was 30 odd miles from the nearest homestead, and set in precipitous forest land about five miles off the main track. There were many banana plantations in the area but as they were large in acreage seldom was anyone seen.

When we got there, the other kid decided he didn’t like the place and decided to go back with the truck that had taken us out there. I was left alone.

There was a small house, with a fridge packed with meat and all sorts of food. My job was to clean out all the weeds in the plantation, which had been a bit neglected.

As it grew dark, I grew scared, and I felt very much alone. The only light I had was a hurricane kerosene lamp. Up on the hills the dingoes were howling, and a breeze was rattling the banana leaves and making the house creak. In addition, a possum was using the roof as a dance floor, scaring me half to death since I did not know what it was. I just could not sleep and at daylight I headed up the mountain to do my work.

I felt so sick I had not been able to eat, but I took a billy of water with some lemon flavour mixed in and this kept me going the first day. Again the night was the same and I felt very frightened and alone. Higher up I found a plum tree, and it was the lemon water and the plums on which I lived for the seven days I was there. Each evening I walked down the track hoping to see someone, but I never did.

On the seventh day I set out over the mountain to find the plantation owned by my Father’s friend, who had gotten the job for me. Finding a small house and packing shed in hundreds of acres of mountain country, would I suspect be a task few would envy, but here I was in my element, and I found it long before midday.

When all this got out… my Father was very proud of me, and boasted, that when I was asked to do something… then that is exactly what I would do. Well that stands true today.

So that’s why I am able to handle being alone, but since then I have had a lot of practice.