Major Smotherman left under his own power and sat shotgun beside Fernando on the way to the BAS (Battalion Aid Station) in Da Nang. The Major confided his “self-diagnosis” as a case of malaria, but we would never learn his actual illness.
Every week we took an orange malaria pill on Sunday morning after brunch. The pills were BIG and difficult to swallow. It wasn’t uncommon to see someone’s gag reflex triggered by these monster pills. I usually downed a full canteen cup of water when I took mine.
There was a fairly large percentage of Marines who claimed the pill gave them diarrhea for a day. The cooks, along with Fernando, never experienced this, and I wondered if it could be a reaction to alcohol. None of us were beer drinkers, and there was always free beer in the club on Sunday afternoons.
I asked Doc Furman about my theory, and he shrugged it off as coincidence (but it did get him thinking). Furman was an E-5 (Hm-2) and had 7 years of service. He and I bonded in Thuong Duc, sharing our childhood memories in the shade of the medical tent. * As a bachelor (he had never married), his career was his life. In his mind, Darwinism had a stronger influence on life than God . . . it was the clash of evolution vs. creation. Sometimes he obsessed on this subject.
When I asked Furman about how malaria pills and diarrhea could be associated, he paused and thought for a moment. Finally he answered, “I don’t know, but God has nothing to do with it.”
* See previous blog, “Survival of the Fittest” June 19, 1968