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In Response to RE: Memoir Prompt April 2012: Your Favorite or Least Favorite Job by rmcginnis
As usual, you have made me think of my own snake adventure. I'm grateful it now brings a smile. This was not always the case.
I was living in Marietta during the days when my step-children were young. As was my habit during those years, I took vacation during their 3-week summer visitation and we planned special things during that time.
I was returning from the ice-skating rink with my 13-year old step-daughter where we had both had a lesson when I pulled around the cul-de-sac in front of my house and noticed my step-son along with about 3 of his little friends, all about age 8. There was no sign of my husband who was supposed to be watching the kids.
I was about to praise them on cleaning up the pine island when I saw one of them toss a pine cone underneath the front steps. Curious, I asked about this and was told there was a snake under the steps. I was about to ask the purpose of the cone-toss when I looked under the steps only to see a very large pile of pine cones, partially covered with holly leaves, that were obviously used when they ran short of the desired missiles. Just as I was about to say something to the boys I noticed a slight movement in the debris and a head appeared. Now it had been a long time since my Girl Scout days, but it seemed to me that I was seeing something that resembled the illustration in the handbook that was labeled “BEWARE“.
Yelling to the boys to keep away from the steps and telling my step-daughter to watch them, I ran inside, calling to my husband who I found in the shower. I told him what was happening in a less than calm voice and was told he had been called into work early. I had the feeling that it had just become even earlier than a few minutes before. He suggested I call animal control.
Now this was the days before cell phones, or even the cordless variety so I was attached to the kitchen wall, hearing the female screams from a 13-year old and several younger boys insisting that she was not their boss. I finally found the number for animal control and managed to dial the phone. I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finally answered and I tried to calm down enough to explain the problem only to be told that they did not do snakes. They suggested I call the fire department, who suggested I call the police department, who suggested I call animal control.
By this time I was not feeling friendly. I tried to sound rational as I asked the person on the phone at the police department if he was familiar with the very large billboard at the intersection of the two main highways because that was the one I was going to rent if any of the children in my front yard who were guarding the poisonous snake underneath my steps were bitten or if the snake escaped and bit any of the toddlers living in the houses next door. He seemed to get the idea and assured me that help was on it’s way.
In just a few minutes a car pulled up, blocking my driveway and out stepped a young man who looked too young to have graduated high school. But he was wearing his uniform and had the posture of John Wayne coming to the aid of the little lady. From his greeting to the kids, I fully expected him to offer autographs. I didn’t get a view of what he saw when he glanced under the steps, but I was certain he was not expecting to see anything, certain that the hysterical female was totally over-reacting. He explained nothing as he hurried back to his car and I swear I could hear the doors being locked.
In just a few minutes I could hear sirens from the adjoining streets and soon there were a total of six cars circling the cul-de-sac in front of my house, all with the lights on. I noticed lots of doors open up and down the street. I’m certain they thought there must be a raid in the neighborhood.
It seemed a long time before any of the car doors opened and then one very distinguished looking, gray-haired man in uniform and a very large gun on his hip started down my driveway. He said he understood I was having a problem and did I have an idea what he should do about it. I responded that I didn’t care what he did as long as he did something. I was getting very nervous with the growing crowd of children in my yard. I was eyeing his gun.
He saw me watching the gun and calmly mentioned that he could shoot it, but that would probably take out a good portion of my basement wall. He asked if I had any gardening tools and I pointed him toward the garage. He congratulated the boys on keeping the snake contained and suggested they continue what they were doing. I was glad they had run out of pine cones.
In the end he came back with a shovel and instructed all the boys to get on one side of the steps and to be very quiet. He climbed up the steps and just waited until the snake seemed to think it was safe enough to come out, at which point he slammed the shovel down on it and crushed his head, then used the shovel to cut it off. He calmly draped the snake, which was about 3-feet long, over the shovel and took it back to his car where he had a plastic bag.
He was the first to leave, followed by the other five cars, who had yet to open their doors.
For as long as I lived in that house, I never climbed those steps without looking under them first.