Dr. Rodney T. Hard

           STERLING STRIPS CORPSE’S

               ARM WHILE CAMPING

By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

One summer, my older brother, Sterling, and I went camping by the ocean out past Song Do Beach in Pusan, Korea.  Several neighborhood Korean friends went with us.  I was about 12 at the time and, with the help of Sterling, had talked my parents into letting us camp out on a little rocky peninsula without any adult supervision.  After all, we were growing up and had to learn to fend for ourselves.  In fact, that is what we did.

We took some rice, a cooking pot, and some hot pepper sauce.  We set up a lean-to with a poncho on the rocky shore right next to the ocean, making sure it was above the high tide mark. 

All of us kids dove off of the sharp coral studded rocks and brought up clams, oysters, sea urchins, and sea slugs to eat raw and prove our manhood.  Sterling dove down and pulled a baby octopus out from a crevice.  We chopped it up, dipped it in hot sauce, and ate it raw.  The only thing we cooked was the rice.

We were having the time of our lives until, in the middle of the night, it began to rain.  I mean it poured down rain, and we were all soaked and cold.  As the morning dawned and we saw that it was not going to let up, we all swallowed our pride and decided to go home.

We gathered our stuff and headed up the embankment to the one lane gravel road.  As we walked up the road, it was so cloudy and pouring rain so hard that we could hardly see a few yards in front of us or hear anything but the pounding rain.

Suddenly, an advancing large truck loomed mere feet in front of us.  My Korean friends and I dove off the road down the embankment to our right, but Sterling scrambled up the steep embankment to the left, grabbing at scrub brush, exposed tree roots, and anything else he could grab onto to get away from the vehicle that almost hit us.

That is when Sterling lost his grip and slid back down the embankment, because one of the “roots” he grabbed sloughed off its spongy, gelatinous covering into his hand.  The truck had passed by safely by then, but when Sterling looked down at what was in his hand and up to where it came from, his face changed to an expression of sheer horror and disgust.

The dead flesh in his hand had come off of the rotting arm of a corpse that had been partially exposed by the torrential rain.  There in front of him on the muddy bank was a bony arm and hand sticking out of the eroded earth.

The hill above us, we discovered, was a gravesite where people were buried under mounds of earth, as is the Korean custom.

Well, that camping trip gave the rest of us kids a great story to tell and retell to our friends for years to come.  Sterling, in contrast, had the curse of having the gruesome experience and the putrid smell of the rotting flesh relived in his nightmares for some time to come.

This is Sterling at about the age when this story happened.  Sterling, in his rubber shoes, is doing yard work with a Korean "Hawmee" garden tool .

My father, Rev. Theodore Hard, sits on a rock overlooking our campsite by the ocean on the long outcropping of land at the top of this picture.

This is a picture of the secluded, rocky, ocean-side campsite described in the story.