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With summer quickly approaching a close, the heat shows no sign of abating. And now, September is sure to be as hot as August. With the weather so warm, our reptile population has been out in force. Lizards and snakes have made themselves quite at home in our back-country.
They reminded me of this little adventure I had with the children a couple of years ago.
We Think We Heard a SNAKE!
While the children played outside, I enjoyed some quiet work while Wife was gone at a church engagement. I had the house all to myself, to blog and write without interruption. It was too good to last.
In little time, the five children at play came rushing into the front room like a herd of buffalo. In the lead rushed trusty #1 completely out of breath. The mob erupted into a torrent of explanations. After many minutes of incoherent noise, #1 finally shouted louder than the rest, “We heard a snake!”
“OK,” I said. “Show me where.”
They led the way with #1 at the lead. “It’s over here, under the tin,” she shouted over her shoulder.
I proceeded without any delusions. After all, there are beetles in the brush that make a sound similar to a rattlesnake. They only heard the rattle once. It stood to reason that nothing more dangerous than a red-ant hid beneath the tin. Therefore, I was quite confidant to walk out that Saturday morning in my slippers.
Soon I stood before the old metal shed that had been burned down into a heap, many years ago. The children pointed to the scrap tin and verified that they heard the rattle from underneath.
“OK guys,” I said, “calm down. It was probably just a bug.” I then proceeded to prove my point by boldly marching into the rusted metal. “Looks like the snake left.” Stomp, stomp, stomp. “Nothing here.” Stomp, stomp, stomp. “I think we’re good.” Stomp, stomp, stomp; rattle, rattle, rattle.
All eyes turn with one mind to the spot where the sound came from. Under a sheet of tin, directly in front of me, the muffled sound of a rattlesnake’s rattle sounded clear. And there I was, standing almost on top of it, armed only with my slippers.
“OK everyone, back to the house.” A quick retreat ensued, in which #5 was nearly left to fend for himself. Lucky for him I was taking the rear and simply scooped him up under one arm with him screaming, “NOOOOOO!” the whole way.
Once I got the children out of potential harm, I pulled on my boots and armed myself with a shovel, the rattlesnake’s nemesis. I went back to the old shed with all the confidence of Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral. And like the famous gun fight, the villains lay dead and I stood triumphant. Returning with a headless snake, I decided it was time for the children’s science lesson.
Practical science I call it. I skinned and gutted the reptile while twelve little eyes looked on with intense interest. We examined the skin, and I explained how I was going to preserve it. We examined the rattles, and the top three girls argued over who would get them. We examined the intestines, and saw that the rattler’s last meal was a kangaroo rat. Then to top off the children’s experience, I fried up the rattlesnake and we ate it for lunch.
I do believe that I make a very good teacher.
I can easily state that any summer afternoon I walk out the front door, I will find two or three of our children busily at play. They might ride their bikes. They may have set up house in their fort. Or some combination of tag and obstacle course. What we do not see most afternoons is #7 and #8 pushing the pink scooter over the side of the hill.
I must say that one of the nicest features about the summer time is the summer nights. I do not mean the summer night-life, or concerts in the park, or bonfires at the beach. I simply like the warm air and the late sunset; those are the perfect conditions to send ALL the children outside after dinner, giving Wife and myself about an hour of relative silence before somebody bothers someone else, or gets hurt; often both.
As the children finish eating they dart out the screen door in ones and twos in the order which they are done. #1 and #2 were the first to exit the house the other night with #2 shouting after her big sister in a near panic, “Wait-up!” #4 was able to bargain with Wife her way out, somehow without finishing her plate. #5 was fixed to the table by Wife’s command that he did have to finish his plate. (In Wife’s defense she dished #4 far more than was given #5.) #6 was wandering under the table, bumping knees and becoming an all around bother of #5. And when Wife and I left the table, #3 walked into the room after us surprisingly quick with a suspiciously empty plate. Suffice it to say, we parents had our quiet and the children had the full run of the outside world. The universe was at peace.
Wife and I set to chatting about the day in the twilight quiet hour. As I washed off the day’s grime she was occupied by the endless task called #7. In the middle of our employment #2 knocked on the bedroom door. As I was in the bathroom I could only hear something about finding a hat and #1 would not give it up… I think… maybe. Here’s a thought, where did the hat come from? Oh dear, I hope they did not find it out in the underbrush! If so, Wife is going to be irritated (lice scare again). But it must not have been so, for Wife shouted from behind the baby changing table, through the door, and into the equally dense head of #2, “GO PLAY NICE!”
All too quickly the sun set completely and I was forced to deal with my children as they staggered into the house. Again another dilemma, #1 threw #2’s toy knife into the dark, and #2 was very quick to remind me, “It’s dark outside!”
“Here’s a flashlight, now all of you go outside and find it. And You! Don’t throw your sister’s toys!” A dejected crew walked outside, except #2 who was quite happy to find her knife and hold the flashlight.
Then I looked for the missing boys. #6 was easy to find, just follow the screams. And there he was yelling about something that would neither hurt him nor give him harm in any way. I left him alone. #5 was asleep at the table, meal still unfinished. I left him where he was as well. They would all be going to bed soon anyway.
Once the children were brushed and cleaned, they began to file into me for a ‘good-night.’ As I hugged #2 I was startled. The night-shirt she was wearing looked fine from the front, however the entire back of the garment was completely and permanently gone like some weird magician’s trick.
The little girl held the back of her impromptu medical gown closed as she scampered away. I turned to Wife with a question, “Her favorite shirt?”