Friday, August 7, 2009

Papa and the Snake


My Papa could do absolutely anything. From fixing a car to building a house, he was definitely a jack of all trades.

He and my dad once spent an entire afternoon trying to diagnose the problem with my car. They tried everything to figure out why it wouldn't crank, only to discover I was out of gas. Only I could manage to run out of gas in my own driveway.

He built a playhouse for me one year at Christmas, and I spent countless happy hours playing house and fast-food restaurant in that little dwelling all my own. He was truly as powerful as Superman in my eyes.

Papa was also deathly afraid of snakes. Although he was never a big man, he had incredible strength in that lean and wiry body. He used that strength to kill any slimy, slithering creature he happened to encounter.

I remember once in New Mexico, we came upon a rattlesnake while hiking. Papa picked up a rock and smashed its head before it could strike. He valiantly tried to squash one that managed to invade their screened porch one spring afternoon, but it got away much to our chagrin. The most memorable of Papa's snake encounters, however, occurred one hot summer afternoon while he was weeding in the flower beds.

I was really young, kindergarten-age or younger, but I remember Papa killing that snake with the hoe. After all of the excitement, Mamma and Aunt Lynn got out the snake book, and we looked up pictures to figure out what kind of snake it was. Eventually, everyone went back inside except Papa who continued to weed and me who wandered around looking for trouble.

I was examining the dead snake more closely and picked it up with a stick. I'm not sure where I was taking it, but I started walking across the yard toward Papa who was working shirtless in the flower bed. As I walked, the stick began to bob up and down.

With absolutely no effort or attempt whatsover from me, the stick bobbed a little bit and the snake went sailing through the air. No joke. I was as surprised as anybody...well, except Papa, I guess. His bare back was turned toward me, and the snake landed perfectly on his right shoulder and slid down his chest. There is no way on God's green earth that I could have executed such a precise trajectory.

Already on edge from the recent discovery of that foul creature in his garden, Papa reacted with lightning speed. He leapt from his crouching position and turned to find me, his sweet, precious and only grandchild standing there with a stick in her hand. Everyone in the family said that if it had been anyone but me, the perpetrator would have suffered a swift but painful death. As it was, Papa was eventually able to laugh about the event, but I don't think he ever believed that it was an accident.

Once and for all, I truthfully proclaim in writing that I did not purposefully toss that snake on my sweet Papa. I could not have done it had I wanted to. It was just one of those freaky things that happen to me. I promise.

You believe me, don't you?