Snakes, Revolvers, and Shovels

Story time, y’all.

I was engaged in a conversation recently about how parents deal with children who are distressed in the middle of the night, whether a nightmare, some other fear inducing situation, or other emergency. This brought to mind a story about your narrator being raised by his Greatest Generation Depression Era Grandparents.

When I was about 10 years old, I woke one night because I felt (and was quite sure I saw) a large snake slither over me on the bed. As this was deeply rural Oklahoma, this was well within the realms of the possible.

Now, I was a Very Self-Sufficient Child, but as you might imagine, a (quite possible) snake waking me was surprising and terrifying. During daylight hours a snake would have been little remarked upon, except to possible kill it if it was dangerous, but this was something like 2:00 AM, so I feel no shame in having set up a hue and cry, which summoned my grandfather from the next room.

After explaining what happened, he looked at me and said. “Wait here.” He left the room for a few minutes and when he returned, he handed me a loaded .22 revolver and said, “If you see the snake, you know what to do.” And then he went back to bed, leaving 10-year-old me sitting on my bed clutching a loaded gun in the same room as a possible snake.

At some point I dropped off to sleep. When I awoke, there was neither a snake nor did I have the gun. At the breakfast table, I recounted my tale. My grandmother looked my grandfather squarely in the eyes and said, “Arthur, you don’t give a child a gun to kill a snake in the middle of the night in the house.”

She vanished outside for several minutes, probably to the derelict cotton gin turned barn. When she returned, she handed me an army surplus folding shovel (aka an entrenching tool) with it’s very sharp point. “This is what you give a child to kill a snake in the house.” She then looked at me sternly. “Now finish your breakfast and go take care of the cattle (on horseback).”

This explains so much about me.

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