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|Daddy Kills the Rattlesnake or, Playing Doctor in Dangerous Times|
May. 28th, 2010 at 10:28 am
When I was 7, we lived for a time on a little ranchette south of Caliente, Nevada, one of Nevada’s many old dirt towns. My dad lived with us there, unlike most of the other places we lived.
It wasn’t a bad few months (there are caveats to that, but this is the sum of my limited memory and I won’t go into the crud here). I kind of liked it—I would hold Sunday School (we knew one song “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”) out in the yard. I bullied my little sisters into participating. There were some good moments in that house.
There were old chicken coops and out buildings up against the dirt hills behind the house where we played house and other pretends. Scrawny, barefoot, freckle-faced little kids growing up under the cloud of alcoholism, abuse and poverty.
We would argue about playing cowboys ON a horse (my preference) or actually being the horse. I just could never get into pretending to being an animal. I preferred to gallop around being the good cowboy. Honestly, I mostly lost that argument and would let the horses gallop off without me (I was the OLDEST and I still lost!). It rankles me to this day.
Once, some other kids were over and we were playing doctor in the chicken coop. Don’t get alarmed, this wasn’t about childish exploration of one’s bodies, it was actual hospital and doctor.
I wanted to be the dying patient, so I—crap – forget how to conjugate this–laid down on a bent old piece of tin for my bed and they were supposed to save me. Now, I was 7, almost 8, I think. That would make my little sisters 6, 4, and 2 with the other kids being in that same age group.
We heard a noise under the tin. I bossed them and told them to peek under and see what the noise was. “It’s a rattlesnake!” Their eyes were huge and they were looking and somebody must have giggled because I thought they were fooling me. Rattlesnake, my eye. Knock it off, you guys. And I went back to my play-acting, moaing in pain and needing help. I was very impressed with my own acting ability. My medical help team wouldn’t come close to me, though. I was going to die in agony with those yay-hoos supposed to be my doctor and nurses.
Finally, exasperated and disgusted (I was so not falling for this stupid joke) I got up and looked under the tin myself. My hell, there was a snake! As I recall, it was coiled up and looking pretty unhappy, but maybe that’s just a figment of my imagination because the other day, somebody told me they struck when they’re coiled up. Anyway, we all booked it out of there, screaming for my dad as we ran down that dusty little hill. We got our dad and he killed it with a shovel. It was quite dramatic, the snake fought for its life and of course, that was over 50 years ago, but as I recall, it was a big snake. We could hear the hisses and rattles. I clearly recall being outside the rickety fence surrounding the chicken coop, watching our dad kill that snake. Well, for little kids in 1959, there was no better entertainment. Of course, my dad won the battle (it wasn’t the first or even the second rattler he’d killed) and he cut off the rattles and hung the snake on the fence.
And we took a stick and hung that snake on the stick and we sang “Jesus Loves Me” and had a funeral for the snake and said a prayer and buried it.
I swear it happened. I have no clue why that snake didn’t strike at us. It would have killed the child it bit for sure, back then and far from a big city hospital.
I just thought of that and thought it was interesting. You guys got any stories of almost getting killed by a rattlesnake, sort of?