I hate snakes.
What started out as fear of snakes, because of an early childhood experience, turned into outright hate.
And thus the story is told…
We grew up on a working farm and we loved to play outside from right after first daylight until the crickets signaled nightfall was on the way as the sun slipped behind the tree line.
It was a hot July day and my brother had just turned six years old. I was the big sister at seven. Outside there was always some cool place to explore and play. Forty acres of the home place was filled with all kinds of wonderous adventure. Ponds, woods, a dairy barn, tool sheds, a pig parlor, a machine shop, hay bales, gardens, livestock pens and a tractor shed.
Going inside while still daylight was a fairly useless endeavor for us, except when we had to eat, drink, or go to the bathroom.
It was the going to the bathroom thing that made me learn to hate snakes.
My brother, in his young brilliance, explained to me that we no longer had to go inside to go to the bathroom. He had pushed over two old tractor tires stored under the tractor shed and decided that would make an excellent substitution for going to the commode. All we had to do was hang it over the side of the tire and –voila!- business done. It didn’t occur to our young minds that what we left behind might be problematic on several levels but we weren’t about solving long term problems. It was all about convenience and uninterrupted play time. Somewhere we must have had a reservation or two or we would not have had the idea to SNEAK a roll of toilet tissue out of the house for our makeshift toilets.
I wish there was a delicate way to say the big adventure, the first tryout of the new outside accommodations was the need for number two. We both took to our respective tires and got down to business. I suspect we were probably conversing about the Cuban missile crisis or some other worldy concern when my brother nonchalantly said, “Look at that snake.” Following his pointing finger, less than four feet from me, was a chicken snake, draped over the tailgate of the bean truck, just resting.
I guess you would have had to been there to understand what happened next.
Terrified, I jumped off that tire and started running toward the house, screaming, “SNAKE! SNAKE!” I think my brother thought that looked like great fun so he joined the chorus, except he was offering descriptions as he yelled, “Nine feet long, trying to bite us! Chasing us to the house!” Or something like that.
My mom was hanging clothes on the line when she heard the screaming and yelling. She turned around to see us running toward the house. Well, my brother was running. I kept falling down because my shorts and panties were still around my ankles. It is hard to run with your pants down.
Never mind that I had sat on a nasty old tractor tire with direct body contact. Never mind that I had dropped my drawers into greasy dirt when I sat down. Whoever heard of pulling up your pants without taking care of proper hygiene? I didn’t exactly stop to use the purloined toilet tissue when I realized my seven year old self was in eminent danger of being swallowed whole, like an egg, by a chicken snake.
My mom ran to me, panic in her eyes, fear plastered across her face asking where I had been bitten.
I was trying to tell her I hadn’t when she literally jerked me off the ground and began to inspect my butt and thighs, thinking I had pulled down my pants to show the snake bite.
When she finally realized I had not been bitten, THEN I had to explain the whole pants down while I was trying to run and screaming snake thing.
It didn’t go too well.
Rest assured, my mother did not spank me. My mother beat my rear! She used a wet towel to get the job done. You may not think it hurt, but allow me to tell you, it darn sure did. Her bare hand filled in anything the towel missed.
I know the entire time she was getting down to business she was telling me what for, but mostly I remember just wishing the snake had swallowed me whole because anything was better than what was happening right then.
When Daddy came in for lunch that day, mama was still mad. She was informing him that she had torn me up for 1) going to the bathroom in a tire under the tractor shed 2) pulling my pants down outside where “anybody could have seen me” (not a soul around except my brother who I hated as much as the snake right then, after all, it WAS his idea) 3) scaring her into thinking I had been snake-bitten 4) making her get her hand near a dirty butt 5) being too stupid to pull my pants up before running.
When she asked him what he was going to do about it, he said,
“Joy Lane, this is why we tell you to wear good underwear. You never know what might happen.”