The above photo is the head of a crocodilian. Crocodilian is Puerto Rican for "el lagarto" (for those of you who don't speak Puerto Rican). The story of how I obtained this head is very interesting. But, before I tell you that story, I have to tell you another story. To provide a segue to the actual story of how I actually obtained the head. Literally.
It all started in May of 1971. The year of the Crocodilian. During Vietnam. I was stationed at Point Yankee, which was right off the coast of 'Nam. Things were seemingly running smooth, seeing as just a year ago, American casualties were less than half of 1969's totals.
Despite the substantial number of people that didn't die that year, I was still feeling down and out. Some of my best friends I made during that war were sent home just a month before. I remember it like it was only forty years ago. My closest Pal, Shticket, came to me on April 15th and told me that the 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry would be returning home, along with the 1st Marine Division.
I was devastated, to say the least.
Shticket was my best friend. He showed me the ropes. Shticket taught me the most valuable lesson I ever learned in 'Nam: don't shit standing up. His real name was Harry. He gave himself the nickname Shticket because he said his penis looked "just like a shticket." I had no idea what a Shticket was and unfortunately, I'd never find out. After returning home to the States, Shticket passed away. He tragically fell out of the window of his one-story home in Hoboken. Then, 17 years later, he died of lung cancer.
I attended his funeral, along with a few other vets. I offered to read the eulogy. I told stories about Shticket and 'Nam that I'm sure no one among the audience has heard before. Like the time he saved a 13 year old Vietnamese girl from a burning hut. And the time he molested that same Vietnamese girl fifteen minutes after saving her for "good measure". I also spoke of Shticket's love for the beach. Oh, how he loved to play in the sand on the beaches of 'Nam.
My eulogy had apparently touched one of Shticket's cousin's so goodly, that he came up and spoke to me at the funeral after-party. He also spoke of Shtick's fondness of beaches. Apparently, Shtick loved beaches so much that he had a beach house in Myrtle Beach, in addition to his house in Hoboken. Shticket's cousin said that it was his "summer home."
I was then invited to help Shticket's family clean out his house in Myrtle Beach. I humbly accepted the offer. While there, I found this old Polaroid of Me, Shticket, and two of our negro "friends" from the war:
(From left to right: Really African American,
Shticket, African American, and I)
Among other relics, I also found the necklace Shticket was wearing in that photo, his helmet, boots, backpack, canteen and his brown leather shoulder holster for the .45 Colt pistols we were issued. Cleaning out Shticket's house was a very bittersweet day in my life. I'll never forget the life of Shticket, and the lives of the other good men we lost in 'Nam. Never Forget.
Oh, and I purchased my alligator head at an alligator exhibit in Myrtle Beach about nine years ago while vacationing with my family.