I will tell you another true snake story – although unlike Carmel – this particular reptile, unless it had a name for itself, goes down in history as just another snake doe. In order to set the context I need to discuss my ancestry a little. My maternal grandfather was as hard working a man as you will ever now. He (with help from grandma) raised 11 kids dirt farming in Kentucky through the Great Depression. When my mother was still a little girl, they moved to Indiana and a better paying job with GM. Grandpa soon bought a small farm which he worked on the side and also assiduously collected junker cars from which he harvested parts, tires, batteries, gasoline and scrap. Grandpa gave away lots of money over the years but he wouldn’t SPEND a nickel unless it was an absolute necessity. His one leisure activity was fishing.
My dad was as courageous a man as you will ever meet. He had fears but he always faced them head on. The only irrational phobia he ever exhibited was of snakes. But dad’s fear of snakes never involved running away from them. If a snake insisted on pressing dad, it became a dead snake. If dad wanted a snake removed alive – he called on me as I have no fear of snakes and I would extract, say a useful black snake from where dad didn’t want it and re-home it under the corn crib where it could earn its keep eating rodents. There were only two instances in dad’s 82 years where these two threads of ‘snake handling’ crossed.
Oh, wait, I left out a detail. Remember my Grandfather liked to fish. At one lake he frequented he occasionally hooked a banded water snake which he would beat to death and toss into the trunk of his car. When it went into the trunk it was only a dead snake. When it came out of the trunk it was free high protein chicken feed. Except for the one time he forgot and left the snake in the trunk.
So, dad opened the trunk to discover the flat spare. He also discovered (so he thought) that a piece of the weather stripping had fallen off the edge of the trunk. He determined to put it back on if possible. But when he pulled the errant weather stripping from the dim recesses of the trunk into the bright sunlight, it was a snake – a not quite entirely dead snake. It managed a writhe in his hand and dangled a forked tongue from its ruined jaws.
In a very short time the snake was completely, entirely, absolutely dead on the shoulder of the Interstate. It took dad a little time pacing up and down the road to recover sufficiently to tend to the tires. Whether it was mere coincidence I cannot say but I noted that Dad’s next several vehicles were hatch backs – the clear rear windshield giving an unimpeded view of the well lit interior before he would need to open it.
As a final note – when dad returned the car, though dad did not ask for reimbursement, grandpa was outraged at the waste. New tires!? There were surely used tires or retreads available. The spare could have been plugged! He removed the new tires, sold them to a neighbor, and put on some more barnyard specials. As I said, dad never borrowed any of grandpa’s vehicles again.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church