During the equatorial travels of my 17th summer I spent a great deal of time in Panama, a wonderful country with not so wonderful financial advisors. Many of my bearded tales of awe and thrill come from my infamous summer stint in Chorrerita, a small jungle village in the Coclé province. It was there that I learned a little a humility and a lot about how much I missed the Internet, but it was all worth it a hundred times over.
I lived in a small shelter with my volunteer partner Henry and an infirm woman and 37 roosters. The bed I was provided by the community was made of wood and had no mattress except for a rug. Real Panamanian men don’t need to sleep so they had no idea what to make me. Luckily, always traveling with a sleeping pad and a sharp knife is a practice my dear father taught me in my teens.
Needless to say, I was living in the Third World, but I loved it. Fish and yucca root for lunch? Hell yeah. 12-mile hike to a waterfall just to jump off and hike back? Let’s do it. Drink the water without filtering it because I’m stupid? Duh. It was not long before I was quite sick, but the specifics of that fun parasite are another story altogether.
At the height of my fever and delirium, I thought it would be nice to get out of the shack and take a shambling walk down to the river. Recently purchased switchblade in hand, I emerged from the dank and dark of my cave and pranced around like I was balancing on the pebbles. I had one goal in mind: reach the river. My ideas of what would happen after I reached the river were hazy, like my thought process. One foot in front of the other got me to the mud path. I was on my way.
Dancing whimsically through the canopy of very green greenery, I must have looked like a bearded jester dripping feverish forehead sweat. Luckily I was staring down at the ground when I almost stepped on a very large snake. In slow motion, I saw the cobra tighten in preparation of a fanged strike, and I also saw how ludicrously close my bare feet and legs were to imminent poisoning. My following muscle reaction happened so fast that it leads me to believe that I was a samurai in my past life. A bearded samurai, of course.
I adjusted my center of gravity mid-stride and threw my right shoulder into a quick whip while my thumb gently depressed the release on my switchblade. Before the cobra punctured my skin as it most surely might have done, the 3½ inch blade passed directly through the space 3 cm below the reptilian skull and collected snake blood as it passed GO.
Not having gauged what might happen if I heaved my body toward the ground, I dropped to the ground like a newborn foal. There I lay next to the two parts of the former cobra, basking in my glory for a couple minutes before prancing back to the village center with my prize kill draped over my shoulders. The villagers decided to cook the cobra for a feast, and they also decided assign a local kid to follow me whenever I went outside. His name was Bladimir, spelled with a “B.”
I got better, and I protected the village from other dangerous beasts, but those are stories for another time. Have a nice week!