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Glimpses of Paradise (Part II) by Jerry Long

Glimpses of Paradise (Part II) by Jerry Long

On Saturday afternoon, Doug and I drove out to the point. The road became more overgrown, winding around through the overhanging trees, with just barely visible tire marks worn away in the dirt. Even the reeds were shoulder high in the center. It turned through thick overgrowth, and suddenly around a corner and onto a dirt shelf nearly on the edge of a cliff, overlooking the ocean with knotted, sandy bushes staked deeply and covering the volcanic black earth below. The path went down a hill, and ended completely at the bottom of the hill, at the foot of a mountain, overlooking the beach. Needle’s eye was at the top, and you could see it through the swaying, torn palms in between, in the wind. We got out of the jeep, and grabbed our bags. I had my camera over my shoulder, the silver of the lens reflecting in Doug’s glasses, and making him squint, and rub his eyes. 

“Jerry, stop.” He said, and we both laughed. “Let’s get on up there.” 

We started up the mountain, Doug walking in front, crashing through the fallen palms and hopping over the bushes like a giant walking through beanstalks. He was shorter than me, stocky, with glasses and curly hair on top. From New Jersey. He was in shorts, and by the time we were halfway, he was already bleeding from several places. I was lucky I wore long pants that day. 

I dragged behind, stopping to take pictures here and there. The view became more and more open as we went up, and there were strange pockets that seemed open into the jungle but were only visible once you were on top of them. Sometimes we’d pass over old metal or war refuse, bleaching and oxidizing in the sun. At night in my room, or if you’re sitting on Nimitz Hill, when it’s really hot, you could sometimes hear some old ordnance blowing up in the distance, sweated through and unstable in the tropical heat, finally touched by a branch and set off.

We climbed up a rocky precipice, and Doug stuck his head up like a groundhog, then looked back at me and said “Oh yeah, here it is.”

Once I climbed up I found myself on a rocky knoll, and on one side a huge panoramic view, seeming to be shielded by the tops of the palm trees, swaying in and out. On the other side was a cave, set inside the mountain wall. It seemed to be carved out perfectly, and was scattered with empty shells, gun tubes, and random twisted metal. Doug seemed to run from one side of the room to another looking through stuff, trying to find anything interesting to take back. I turned to the opposite wall, taking a picture of some carvings on the wall. They were scratched with a knife, it looked like. 

“Hey Jerry, catch!” I heard behind me, and turned to see a metal tube flying at me through the air. Seemingly by instinct, I dropped my camera (which was luckily still attached to the leather strap and around my neck) and happened to catch the tube, much to my surprise. My heart was racing, and then I noticed what it was I held in my hands. It was an unexploded 75 mm shell. 

“Let’s get on back, I’m bushed.” Doug said, and we started back down the mountain. Driving on the way back, we came off the dirt roads, and the jeep roared back onto the paved highway, the cool late afternoon wind blowing just before sunset. I kept thinking to myself that if I had dropped that shell, it probably would have exploded, and would have ended up blowing up us and the whole rest of the mountain. – By Jerry Long, transcribed by Will Long

All photography by Jerry Long, scanned and restored by Will Long

 

About the photographer:

Jerry Long (1936 – 2011) was an American photographer, orthodontist, and naturalist from Mississippi.