The Military Brat Team and the Homefront Team are combining efforts to share our experiences with the military lifestyle so that others can fully understand the sense of community, sacrifices, benefits, and expectations we all share as members of a truly unique group of people. Each month we will feature a story shared by a Military Brat Team member, and a story shared by a Homefront Team member.
This feature is written by
Patti Neal Cadwallader,
owner of Ocean Kisses
From a brat’s perspective
There are very few things that will make me scream. In my opinion, snakes and mice, although note worthy, are not scream worthy. Certain insects, however, can solicit a scream from me deserving of any good horror movie. One such insect is the preying mantis. It gets its name from it’s prayer like stance, but this bug is not praying. It is PREY-ing.
Notoriously predatory, it lashes out with its spiked forelegs to snare unsuspecting victims, even having a reputation for sexual cannibalism. It has a segmented body capable of remaining completely still while the arms whip out to grab a living meal. This horrific creature has a triangular face and compound eyes and its head is so flexible, it has a 300 degree panorama of vision. And if all these attributes weren’t enough to give you nightmares for the rest of your life; it is a master of camouflage, rocks side to side in the rhythmic movement of a professional boxer, some species hiss, pinch, bite, and fly. Plus, they can reach up to 12 inches in length and there are 2,200 known species in the mantis family on this planet.
In about 1961, the United States Air Force sent my Dad to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippine Islands. Shortly thereafter, my Mom, my two little sisters, and I followed. We resided in an off-base housing compound for the Americans stationed at Clark. These housing compounds had a guard at the entrance, supposedly for our safety, however those guards could not keep out the incredibly huge bug population that lived with us there. We not only had gigantic flying roaches and preying mantises, there were also rats the size of bunny rabbits and lizards, called geckos, that climbed up the walls in our houses. This was the norm for life on these tropical islands. After awhile you simply got used to sharing your bedroom with geckos, but I never got used to seeing 3 inch long, neon green, swively-headed preying mantises that rivaled any monster Hollywood could come up with in their best scarey movies.
There was a lot to be afraid of in 1961, especially when you’re only 6 years old. Never mind Russia and the Cold War, never mind what was lurking under the bed. For me it was the solitary swaying preying mantis that clung to my bedroom window screen, sizing me up, silently contemplating God only knows what. The 664 days I was in the Philippines, I probably saw a preying mantis every day of my life.
One particular day stands out in my memory. My little sister, Brenda and I were just coming home from our neighbors house. As we crossed the front yard in the steamy afternoon heat, I walked under a low hanging branch of a small tree. We stopped momentarily and faced each other to discuss something of sisterly importance when Brenda, looking up at me, said, “There is something on your head.”
Somewhere, deep in my 6 year-old wisdom, I was sure I had a preying mantis in my hair. “What is it?” I asked trying to sound innocent.. “I don’t know,” Brenda responded, her expression telling me a far different story. “What color is it?” I asked, the terror starting to rise in my throat. “Green,” she stated flatly. I looked at her concerned expression and with my last ray of hope I asked, “Is it a leaf?” At this point, I knew we both knew what was on top of my head, but she wasn’t going to be the one to give me the bad news. “I don’t know,” she said unconvincingly.
Finally gathering a meager amount of courage, I put my hand up to the top of my sweating forehead as if in invitation and in that terrifying moment I felt the insect step on top of my, quivering, hand.
The next few moments are frozen in slow motion memory as I brought my hand down to inspect the inevitable.
There was the blood curdling scream.
Brenda probably screamed too, I don’t remember. I flung the monstrous creature from me and my sister and I ran for our lives, our screams echoing behind us as I was sure the enormous mantis was in hot pursuit, its barbed forelegs primed to snag me in midstride. Of course, I would not be able to tell you this story if we hadn’t barely made our escape.