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Fear can paralyze
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You would have thought someone would have checked this out before they sent this guy to help me, but apparently not. I came down out of the Mt. Hagen highlands of Papua New Guinea after about four weeks to finish up some work in the coastal swamps.

I was out of the cool mountains and into the hot sticky flatlands. I met my help at the airstrip and we soon found ourselves pitching tents in a grassy reed area near some bogs.

One tent was for sleeping and two tents housed all of our Magnetotellurics equipment.

It had been raining for weeks straight. It rained and rained some more without let up.

The tents, our supplies and all of our equipment were soaked, not to mention ourselves.

The problems started just about dusk.

It seemed this was my help's first overseas assignment, his first time in a swamp and from what I could gather, his first time spending the night outside of his apartment.

It was worse than that though.

He kept jumping around at the slightest rustle in the reeds or sudden burst of birds flying out of the trees. Come to find out he was worried about snakes.

Papua New Guinea is a massive rain forest island covered with volcanos and roaring rivers plunging off huge cliffs as gigantic waterfalls.

It is home to some of the most diverse wildlife on this planet and hundreds of tribes of natives living in lost valleys. To put that in perspective, they only outlawed headhunting when I was in high school.

Yet my California-based help was worried about snakes.

By nightfall his worry had spread to stark fear.

The lightening would illuminate the raising water from the bogs and after a while you could catch fleeting glimpses of the bodies of a few huge olive pythons as they lumbered along looking for dinner. The man was gripped with fear. All night he stared out of the tent door waiting for the massive pythons to come and take him.

At sun up, I read his morning report.

It was nothing but comments about snakes and potential death.

By the third night he was so entangled in his fears that he was rendered useless. I radioed for a chopper to take him out.

It seemed to me that the corporation would have done some sort of screening of this guy before sending him to Papua New Guinea.

This is neither a place for rookies, nor someone that has a gripping fear of snakes.

The irony is that the 12-foot-long olive pythons could crush a man, but they are not inclined to do that unless you pester them - a lot.

The guy was never in any danger.

There are death adders and small-eyed snakes that could have dropped him before he went two steps. Those were not around our camp.

It is a funny thing about fear.

I see businessmen and politicians every day that seem to be gripped with fear. They fear the future, fear making decisions and even fear their own shadow.

My helper's fears were in his opinion, well founded.

Still he never bothered to educate himself, learn about his environment or try to eliminate his fears when they surfaced. I see that these days as well.

People are gripped with fear even though they don't have any information or facts. They shut their eyes in fear over what tomorrow will bring and won't even open them when the sun comes up the next glorious morning. Most fears are not real.

A person that lacks the desire to learn, or the maturity to overcome little fears will most assuredly find those fears growing in their mind. They become gripped with fear.

When that happens they spend their entire lives staring out of the tent door waiting for an olive python that will never strike.

Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News. He is also the executive director of the local development authority.