Memories Of The Past Haunt The Future

Back when I was just 11, my father being an army soldier was transferred to Formosa otherwise known at the time as Taiwan, and now known as the Peoples’ Republic of Taiwan. We initially had to find housing off base since none of the housing was available on the base. My parents settled us into a nice house which was surrounded on all sides by a 10 foot solid rock wall.

On the top of the wall was embedded large shards of various colored glass which ostensibly was to prevent the locals from climbing over the wall and stealing things. Attached to one corner of the compound was a garage which opened out into the street, and a side door which we would use to access the garage.

The yard was not very big, with a single sidewalk that spanned from the front door of the house to the front gate. The gate always was locked except to enter or leave. Inside the yard was an open concrete ditch which ran the entire circumference of the house which was to catch rain water and funnel into the sewers.The pipes down the side of the house were made of ceramic tile as well as the roof tiles.

In front of the house was a swingset made of bamboo, which had metal stakes driven into the ground and attached to ropes which helped to stabilize the entire structure. Myself and my siblings constantly played on this set, dreaming up new adventures daily to incorporate the swing into a pirate’s ship, spaceship, fort, or just a safe zone for a game of tag. One day while running around playing out some of our fantasies, I ran into one of the metal spikes, and split my lower shin open which gushed what I thought were copious amounts of blood. I was rushed to the base military hospital. I received 9 stitches to sew up the wound, and sent on home.

Now this in particular was not a rare event in my life, I was always dinging up my self, usually causing a trip to the hospital and stitches. I have multiple scars from various injuries. The only redeeming factor to this was my brother usually spent a lot of time at the same hospital for various injuries.  It got to the point where the staff not only knew our names, but they kept our charts on hand and expected a visit from the Thurmond brothers at least once or twice a month.

Another time while playing tag in our yard, I remember running around the back of the house, and whomever was “it” jumped out at me, I in surprise, spun around, and ran into one of the backside of the house’s ceramic downspouts. The result was the pipe shattering into a thousand pieces of which several decided to lodge into the side of my leg, and you guessed it, another trip to the hospital emergency room. Good thing we were military personnel, so the visits and treatments did not cost my parents. It only cost , usually my mother several hours of fretting and frustration.

My brother as I said earlier was not exempt from harm either. Once we moved onto the base facilities, our adventures continued, and the trips to the hospital did not recede. We were playing on a stone slide which was part of an adjacent walled playground built for military base personnel. The slide was probably 15 to 20 foot high, and if I remember correctly had a stone stairway up one side, and 3 stone slides one on each other side of the slide. One day while playing some sort of war game, I ran up the stairs to the top of the slide, and smacked into my brother who was attempting to turn around to slide down. He was knocked face first down the slide, rock burning the underneath side of his chin, and yes another trip to the hospital for stitches.

Some of the more interesting aspects of the base housing , specifically the playground, was it had several iron swings with I think leather strap seats. It also had a baseball field, and if memory serves me correctly an old army tank situated in the back corner which sat half buried in the dirt and sand. I only vaguely remember playing around the tank, mainly because I was terrified of the interior of the tank. I do not remember any thing much about the tank, other than it was completely stripped out from the inside out.

One day we were playing hide and seek, and I got the brilliant idea to hide inside the tank (this was before my fear of it). Bravely I climbed down inside the dark interior, no light inside except the shaft of light streaming in from the opened hatch (no door on hatch). I settled down waiting to see if anyone was going to find me. Within a few minutes I began feeling something crawling on my arms and legs (I was wearing shorts which I did most of the time due to the generally humid conditions in Taiwan).  I thrust my arms out into the shaft of light and to my horror I saw hundreds of tiny red spiders crawling up and down my arms.

That was the only time in my life I ever moved at Olympic speed, as I screamed (probably like a girl), I shot out of the top of the tank, and launched myself towards home, running all the way and wildly beating at the spiders  covering me. By the time I reached the house, I think my mother was standing at the door on the outside trying to figure out why I was raising bloody hell. Well after finally calming down, between sobs and shaking, I explained about the spiders. Unfortunately or maybe fortunately I had either squashed, beaten, or knocked all of them off, my mother could not find even one left on me. I am not sure to this day if my mother actually believed me, or not, but I do know it was real, and I still cannot stand the sight of any kind of spider I let my wife take care of the honor of removing or killing them around the house. Give me any old zombie, or horrible monster and I will bravely defend the homestead, but show me a spider and I will back away to a suitable distance, lets say 1 or 2 miles.