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The not so fake snake

It is no revelation to faithful followers of this column that I have little affinity for slithering reptiles. Id sooner charge a momma black bear with a mouthful of jelly donuts and half a dozen cubs than be startled by the most harmless of garden snakes. Sure, Ive heard the arguments about how beneficial they are. They keep the rodent population in check. They help deter unwanted visitors in the garden like rabbits and birds. Whatever. They also sneak up on you and, venomous or not, scare the living c%#p out of you. Soooooo, on that note, let me entertain you with my latest reason for hating these little forked tongue monsters of the soil. Picture this. Having just dried off from my morning shower, Im lazily stepping from my second story bathroom into my bedroom to toss on some work clothes. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I peer down at my ruby-colored bedroom carpeting and there, coiled in the middle of the room, lies a four-foot black snake. My initial thought: Hmmmm ... the boy child playing a trick with a rubber snake? He wont get me with this one again, I think as I meander over nonchalantly in my bathroom towel to pick it up. I think you know where Im going with this. Eeeeeeck, I shriek as the snake picks its avocado-sized head from the floor and flicks its forked tongue at me. Its alive. I race down the stairs, nearly tripping over the towel as it drops from my waist, and streak across the backyard like a college kid going through a fraternity initiation. I grab a pointed end shovel from my garden shed and tip toe back up the stairs, stopping just long enough to pull on a pair of shorts and sneakers. Back in the bedroom, I catch the tip of a black tail disappearing under the door to my walk-in closet. The lyrics of Kenny Rogers hit single Coward of the County played in my head as I walked in, turned and locked the door behind me. (Feel free to substitute John for Tommy; closet for barroom and snake for Gatlin boy were appropriate.) Everyone considered him the coward of the county. Hed never stood one single time to prove the county wrong. His mama named him Tommy, the folks just called him yellow, But something always told me they were reading Tommy wrong. I poked with the pointed spade at the dirty laundry piles on the floor. Promise me, son, not to do the things Ive done. Walk away from trouble if you can. It wont mean you're weak if you turn the other cheek. I hope youre old enough to understand: Son, you dont have to fight to be a man. Maybe. But you mess with my family and youre gonna get the pointy end of a shovel, I thought as the snake shot across the closet floor under a dresser. The Gatlin boys just laughed at him when he walked into the barroom. One of them got up and met him halfway cross the floor. When Tommy turned around they said, hey look! Ol yellows leavin. But you coulda heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped and locked the door. Just then, a second head appeared from a dark corner. Twenty years of crawlin was bottled up inside him. He wasnt holdin nothin back; he let em have it all. When Tommy left the barroom not a Gatlin boy was standin. He said, this ones for Becky, as he watched the last one fall. Ok, the Becky reference makes no sense at all but I left it in so as not to breakup the continuity of a great tune. And I heard him say, I promised you, dad, not to do the things you done. I walk away from trouble when I can. Now please dont think I'm weak, I didnt turn the other cheek, And papa, I sure hope you understand: Sometimes you gotta fight when youre a man. Suffice it to say, three of us went into that closet on that fateful morning, and only one came out. Judge me for that if you must but sometimes you gotta fight when youre a man. John Gereau is managing editor of Denton Publications and an avid outdoorsman. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at johng@denpubs.com.

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