Not long ago I wrote and told you about my fear and loathing of snakes. My Quirky Cousin wrote me a very insightful and deep email about the symbolism and meanings of snakes. She also explained to me how she worked past her own fear of snakes. I am in awe of her strength and courage. I also find this hard to believe since she hails from the same family and the same geographical area that I did. Also she is one of the people who taught me how to slide just so over the rattlers lying in the road in order to kill them. It was her sister, though, that one time slide over a snake on a gravel road but could tell she didn’t kill it so she backed up and ran over it several more times. She determined it still wasn’t dead so she got out of her Le Mans and picked up boulder sized rocks and pounded it to a pulp. Yeah you see I come from a long line of snake haters. I however am a big old chicken and personally having a really difficult time getting past this phobia. This phobia started when I was a very small child. It is in fact one of my earliest childhood memories.
When I was about two years old my grandparents owned a cabin on the little local red mud hole we called a lake. No really the water in this like was red because the dirt around the lake was red and if you swam in the water your bathing suit would turn a rusty red color. We were from west Texas and thought all lakes looked like Fort Phantom Hill. Not only was it a red rusty lake and the land around red and rusty it was also dry and arid with lots of limestone and clay which of course hid little rodents that rattlesnakes liked to eat like a fat kid loves candy. So are you getting the mental picture? Dry arid area surrounding rusty water colored lake. Aw the beauty that is west Texas.
But I digress yet again, back to the story at hand. The little cabin did not have a bathtub but instead had a shower stall, a sink and toilet. Next to the toilet in the corner of the bathroom was a small hole in the wall. My grandmother, Nanny, had stuffed newspaper into the hole until her carpenter husband found time to fix the hole. Nanny decided it was time for me to have a bath since I had been playing in the red rusty dirt all day. She got out the number 5 washtub. Let me stop here and say if you don’t know what a number five washtub is then I’ll explain it. Basically it is a galvanized bucket elongated in shape and the number denotes the gallons it holds. Before there was indoor plumbing and every home had a built in bathtub people would heat a big kettle on the stove drag the washtub out and then bathe in the washtub. Usually a whole family would bathe in one tub, not at the same time but with the same water. I was fortunate and did not have to share my bathwater with anyone, well almost.
Nanny placed the washtub on a couple of stools and filled it up with water. Then she chased my two year old squirming laughing body around the house a couple of times until she had me stripped naked and screaming. She placed me lovingly in the tub and started to wash all the sienna dirt from my body when I saw the newspaper pop out of the hole. Now I believe I have mentioned before that I came out of the womb talking and not only talking but speaking in complete sentence nonstop. So as I sat jabbering away to Nanny I happened to mention that a snake had just pushed the newspaper out of the hole and was joining us in the bath. That was all she wrote. The next thing I knew my grandmother had jumped straight up in the air and over about 2 feet just like Wylie Coyote in the cartoons and was in the bath with me. All the while screaming bloody murder and saying some things that well a good Christian woman normally does not say.
My grandfather who had been down on the dock had heard the commotion and out of all the screaming and hollering. My grandfather being a rather calm laid back type person took one look at Ricky the Rattler and said “For gosh sakes May, calm down.” He might as well poured kerosene on a tire fire cause that just lit my grandmother up that much more. Now not only was she screaming about having a rattlesnake in the bathroom with her but she was madder than a wet hen at my grandfather. Taking his sweet time my grandfather strolled out of the room and came back with his trusty ball peen hammer. He then took the hammer and with one fell swoop knocked the head off the snake. With the snake still writhing around headless my grandfather grabbed its tail and slung it up to carry it out. Blood was squirting, my grandmother was hollering and there was a big ole snake head smushed into the linoleum. Yes friends and neighbors this is one of my earliest memories. So I ask you is it any wonder that I have a fear of snakes?
1 week ago