http://hubpages.com/hub/Three Snake Stories Fit For a King
The young mother loved the end of the summer. A return to her desert mountain home with husband and baby girl after a successful summer selling their wares at one of the major tourist attractions in the country. Standing on the porch of the nearly one hundred year old cabin with the smell of the pinon pines in the heat of the day and the crisp mornings hinting at cooler temperatures to come. Listening for the hawk cry in the sky and the soft questing call of the quails in the bushes on the edge of the yard. She could stand and soak it in all day if only she had time. But the cabin had been closed all summer and there was laundry to do, supper to cook and a smiling toddler who demanded her Moma play with her so standing and soaking was not on her agenda this morning! With a laugh she picked up her daughter and propped her on her hip as she turned and entered the cabin.
She handed the toy boom to the baby and reached for her own as she said,
“OK baby girl, you come play sweep with momma and we will have this place clean in no time! And your Daddy will be so glad to come home to a spick and span house won’t he!”
Her baby girl laughed and sang Daddy it’s time to come home!” and took her toy broom and began to play. Such a sweet baby, the young mother thought to herself, let her stay this way forever. Smiling to herself she methodically began to clean one corner to the next, one room to the next. It did not take long as the cabin consisted of four rooms, six if you counted the screened in porch on one end and the bathroom. She saved the second bedroom for last. It held an ancient upright piano and she and her baby girl would spend a few minutes playing simple tunes and singing before starting on the next housekeeping task. It wasn’t in good tune but neither mother nor daughter cared. It was just fun to play and sing.
The baby girl was already reaching for the piano stool and calling “Up Mommy, up!” when the young mother pulled the braided rug up to sweep. With a surprised yelp when grabbed up the toddler and tossed her unceremoniously onto the high bed in the adjoining room.
“You stay right there baby girl!” hollered the young mother and ran for the front door. She pulled the ax free of the chopping block and flew back into the cabin. Her daughter was in the middle of the bed eyes wide but not crying, not yet anyway. The young mother thought, she’s probably in shock, I’ve never raised my voice to her much less dumped her in the middle of a bed and run out of the house before. She couldn’t think about what she had done to her daughters psyche though, she had a snake to kill and she was very afraid it was a coral snake. She didn’t stop chopping until the snake stopped moving, not even when she saw daylight between the floorboards. It was a big one, pretty too in its own way, if a snake can be considered pretty. Bands of color, red, black yellow and red and my goodness it was fat!
She stopped and lowered the ax to the floor, surprised to discover she was shaking and crying. Not surprisingly, baby girl was crying too and making a lot more noise about it!
“Shhh now baby girl its ok now, moma killed that ole snake, we’re safe, its ok now, let’s go find Mr. Hargis and tell him all about it”
She bundled up the toddler onto her hip and ran down the road to the landlord’s house. Mr. Hargis had built the cabin when he and his wife first married way back in the 1930’s and the mother knew they were so lucky to rent from him. He was well respected in town but did not have a lot of friends and the people he associated with had to be honest and respectable. Mr. Hargis did not tolerate anything less. She burst into the house out of breath and still in tears,
“Mr. Hargis I’ve killed a coral snake! It was huge! and I’m sorry but I think I cut the floor with the ax, I’ve got to call my David! Mr. Hargis! Why are you laughing?”
Her landlord turned his back and started looking for something on his bookcase as she grabbed up the phone and dialed St Elmo’s bar, where her husband was bartending that day. Sobbing and telling him what had happened she was interrupted by Mr. Hargis putting an open book in front of her face. One page showed a coral snake, skinny and only a foot long while the other side of the page showed a mountain king snake, much longer, bigger but with the same distinctive red black and yellow markings. Mr. Hargis took the phone from the now very embarrassed, still upset young mother and said,
“David calm down, everything’s fine, come on home and we’ll go see if we can get us a hatband out of this situation.”
That young mother was young and no, she couldn’t tell a king from a coral back then but she for sure never made that mistake again! She was thinking about that time so long ago after seeing another snake at another home over 30 years later. The day before, she had been washing her hands at the kitchen sink when she saw a long black and cream striped snake winding across and down one side of her raised flower bed out back.
“David, David come quick I see a snake!”
But when they got outside the snake was nowhere to be found.
“It was just here, honey! It has to still be here!”
Well are you sure you saw a snake honey?
“I know a snake when I see one David!”
OK OK don’t get mad at me, I’m just asking!”
Then he started to laugh, “Here he is Boo, check it out”
Together they peered into the raised flower bed. She had learned the best way to enjoy her summer flowers in the desert was to cage them up so the raised bed was also ringed with chicken wire. The king snake had curled up right in the middle around the mint and the alyssum.
“He will keep the rattle snakes and rodents out of the yard, let’s leave him be,” David said.
“Wonder how long it will take him to figure out the chicken wire is keeping out his lunch?” she asked with a smile. David gave her a hug, “Good eyes honey” he murmured as he kissed the top of her head.
She was telling her Momma about the king snake that same day and her momma told her a snake story she’d never told before.
“I was real young, still in grade school, and I saw my brother Elmo walking home from school one day. The farm came up right against the railroad tracks and Elmo was crossing the tracks. He had tied something in his handkerchief and he was swinging it and grinning. I am telling you this just as I remember it, course you never saw the farm but anyway, I was standing on the other side of the branch and I saw Elmo coming and I thought to myself what has he got? And I ran for the house calling for Momma. Momma! Elmo’s coming and he’s got something tied in his handkerchief!
Momma looked at Elmo walking across the yard and she said, “Well, it’s a snake of some kind; let’s go see what he’s caught. Elmo came up still grinning and swinging that snake and he said “I got something for you Momma”
Momma said that’s good Elmo, it’s a king snake; it will kill some of these rodents around here. And she had Elmo turn the snake loose under the house. Your granddaddy had built that log house and it was up on stones off the ground so the snake went under the house to kill the rodents and the poisonous snakes. Now your Uncle Herschel and Aunt Joyce and I decided that snake needed to be rewarded for keeping us safe so every time one of us would find a penny we would drop that penny between the slats of the porch to thank brother snake.”
Her Mom laughed and said “I don’t know what made us think of that but that’s what we did.”
Memories from two women, mothers, grandmothers and great mothers now, laughing and remembering times when they were young about three king snakes over the course of time, living their purpose to protect other lives.
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