When one of my daughters read a draft of this blog, she asked, “Are you sure you want to put this on the Internet?”
“Yes,” I said. “My friend who blogs for Psychology Today thinks it’s funny, though I’m not sure why exactly.”
“He probably think you’re nuts,” came the reply.
“Could be,” I said, “but if I am, chickens and snakes had a lot to do with it.”
I grew up in a family that for a long while did not have much in the way of material things but felt just as well off as any other. We always had food on the table, clothes on our backs, and love for each other, and were happy.
But I also grew up claustrophobic and with a bad case of herpetophobia, and I remain that way. I don’t like riding in crowded elevators and I sometimes have nightmares about being trapped under stuff or falling into snake pits. I love movies, but never again will I watch Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Heck, I can’t even watch the Arizona Diamondbacks play baseball on television.
It all started with an old farmhouse my paternal granddaddy built. After he died, my parents moved there to take care of my grandmother and improved it incrementally over the years before eventually replacing it. Like many other houses at the time, it sat on brick pillars with enough room between the floor and the ground for small animals to go but not enough for young children to play. When I was around five, however, there was enough space for my grandmother to think it would be a good idea for me to crawl way in there and retrieve eggs laid by chickens that somehow found a way out of their pen in the barnyard. I have no idea how she knew the eggs were there, but she proved right about them more than once.
The places the dumb chickens chose were so tight, however, I couldn’t even turn over to scratch an itch, and I thought I was stuck under there more than once. That was scary enough, but the day a big ole black chicken snake stuck his head in my face while I was crawling around was life changing. I screamed my head off and probably scared him more than he scared me. I don’t recall how I got out or what happened with the eggs after that, but the episode ended my forays after them.
Not long afterward, elsewhere on our homeplace I picked up a pile of goat harness—I had a goat that pulled a small wagon my daddy built for me—and while I was holding the harness against my chest, a green grass snake with a bright yellow collar poked his head out of it and stuck his beady eyes right in my face, just like the chicken snake. There was more screaming—and possibly even a change of underwear, I don’t remember—and that was it for snakes and me. As an adult, I got brave enough to touch a snake skin once while visiting a zoo with my children, but I’ll probably have a nightmare tonight just from having written this.
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