Spiders, Scorpions and Things


On the whole we saw very little wildlife of the larger variety, mainly insects of the extremely large variety. A few guys had to be casevaced because of spider-bites and scorpion stings.

One morning, very badly hung over, I was too lazy to put my boots on and stumbled barefoot along the path to the mess for coffee. I suddenly felt an excruciating pain in my little toe, as if someone was putting out a cigarette on it. My first thought was that I had stepped on someone’s cigarette butt, then I saw a whitish, small scorpion scuttling off. Strangely enough my scorpion sting, while painful, did not upset my nervous system as it did the other guys who got stung; they all got seriously ill. I waited for the inevitable, but, apart from minor swelling where my little toe became my big toe, nothing really happened. It must have been all the vodka acting like a serum! On a scale of pain it was high up: much worse than a bee sting, about three times worse than a wasp, but Mickey Mouse when compared to an adder bite. So far those are the only references I have managed to collect, but I am still working on it.

The grossest insect-related thing I saw, and thank God it didn’t happen to me, involved little white worms. There we were, minding our own business on the shooting range. Some of the guys were complaining about these painful pimples they had developed. One artilleryman had a lovely beer belly and was digging at a pimple on his stomach with his none-too-clean fingernails. Much to everyone’s disgust, an ugly little worm-thing wriggled out. It was highly amusing to watch all these rough and tough soldiers, who had similar pimples, run screaming like a bunch of frightened women to find the medic. I suppose it was only funny because my skin was a lovely brown colour and free of blemishes! Brian, the medic, spent the afternoon digging out these horrible little worms.

Extract from: The Chronicles of the Mexican Horse Thief I – Angola