As a new years resolution, I am committing family stories to print each Saturday. There are so many good tales that get lost from one generation to the next because memories fail and the story tellers pass away. I am on a mission to not let that happen in my family. I challenge you to do the same. Collect the family lore and record it. If you choose to do it on your blog, feel free to link back to mine.
Today, I am telling a story about me.
When I was a little girl, my father was sent to fight in the Vietnam Conflict. He left us on a base in the Northeast for months at a time. He’d return for a short while and then have to return to the war. After a few rotations, he wrote a letter to my mom and asked her to come over to Thailand, where other military wives were staying. She packed us up and we boarded a plane that took up across the USA to Tokyo to Bangkok. We stayed in an apartment complex literally carved out of the jungle. There was a high wall all around the living area; on the other side was wilderness. When Mom asked why there were little lizards on the ceilings of our living quarters, she was told, “Geckos are good. When they are around, it is safe. When they leave, there is a snake nearby. Remember, 98% of the snakes are poisonous and the other 2% will squeeze you to death.”
That was just the beginning of my adventures with the slithering wildlife of Thailand. My dad took us to a nearby base and showed us “Iron Mike,” the python they found while clearing jungle for a runway. To my little girl eyes, he was a monster. He had just eaten when we saw him, so he had a bulge of undigested dinner. My active imagination pictured him eating little girls for a snack.
One night, after an evening out at a nearby restaurant, my parents and I were walking home to our apartment. My mother stopped suddenly and started pointing her finger, all the while saying, “Ngoo!” over and over. Dad and I thought she’d lost her mind and was saying, “Moo!” Finally, she yelled “SNAKE!” Dad grabbed a nearby folding chair and beat the thing to death. The next day, we went back to see it. It was a young cobra.
As if that weren’t enough, one morning, mom and I decided to go swimming. In our complex, there were little square foot baths all around the pool. We were expected to wash off the dirt on our feet before entering the pool. We did it everyday. We didn’t even think about it after a while. Step in, step out, get in the pool. Well, this day, I saw something move in the water of the foot bath. I told my mom, but she brushed me off. I got more insistent that there was a snake in the foot bath. She thought it was my imagination and patiently told me not to worry, that if there was a snake, it was probably dead. I became almost hysterical that there was something alive in that foot bath, so mom went over to the office and got the manager. He and a string of other people came out to the pool area. They had a long hooked pole with them. They looked in the foot bath and, using the pole, lifted out a live snake, walked over to the tall wall and dropped it over on the other side. The manager said it was a viper, “a three stepper: you get bitten, walk three steps and die.”
Years later, as a tween, we lived in Missouri. We had a corner lot with an open storm drain in the curb on the front of our house. One day, while mom was mowing the front lawn, she came upon a cottonmouth. It was frightened by the mower and quickly slithered down the grass to the drain. I could never walk out by that part of the lawn again.
Fast forward a few decades. I was in Washington state, picking blackberries on the side of a road. All of a sudden, I noticed a snake skin a foot from my feet. Now, I knew that there were no poisonous snakes in our area of the state. The logical part of my mind KNEW it was just a garter snake skin and that the actual snake was probably hiding, but I was literally paralyzed. It took me minutes before I could take one step backward and then another. I finally got far enough away from the skin so I could turn to the Good Guy and say, “I am not picking another berry. I have to leave this place. Sorry.”
I can stand inches from a glassed in snake at a zoo. I can even act like an interested spectator at a reptile show for scouts. I simply cannot, however be friendly to a snake. Don’t ask me to touch it. Don’t expect me to be able to stand next to one in the wild. I don’t care if it is 6 inches long and harmless. I DON’T LIKE SNAKES!!!