Six years before Neil Armstrong took that first, historic step onto the surface of the moon, he and fellow astronaut John Glenn munched on a boa constrictor in the jungles of Panama.
Morgan Smith and his native friends taught the two how to capture snakes, lizards, rats, and use vegetation and whatever else they could find to provide nutrition.
Smith, 82, has lived in Elmore County for many years, but he often thinks back to a particular week in early 1963 when he was the boss and more than a dozen former fighter pilots were his students.
They were accustomed to zooming through the wild blue yonder, but their "classroom" that week had them grounded and survival was the name of the game.
It was all part of an astronaut program launched by NASA when America's space program was still in its infancy and concerns grew with each mission that one might have to be aborted over a jungle.
An Air Force civilian employee at the time, Smith called on skills accumulated in Florida swamps to teach the astronauts -- experiences culled in a domain where animals, not humans, ruled.
As the U.S. prepares to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Armstrong's epic first step on the moon on July 20, 1969, Smith has given an important document of the space program to his adopted state.
It's a letter dated June 19, 1963 -- signed at the bottom by 16 astronauts who thanked him for his survival instruction in Panama.