It’s Fathers Day, and I woke up this morning thinking about my Dad. That pic above was taken just 4 months shy of 55 years ago and I have no memory of it, but it certainly represents the joy that both he and my Mom shared when they finally were able to adopt their first child. I was just fortunate to have won that throw of the cosmic dice ’cause they were two of the most special folks I can imagine, and I got to be raised by them and share their company for a good, long while. Later, my joy came to be shared by my little sister, another adoptee.
I also got to grow up in a time and place that seems so very far away, and in light of today, more of something from past fiction than from reality. A time when one could buy a piece of land and do something with it, without filing a slew of reports and suffering endless permits and reviews. A time when your imagination could dictate what you were attempting to accomplish, not your neighbors or your government — at least to a large degree depending upon if you were committing wholesale destruction or damaging others warranting civil action. Let me explain with a story that I didn’t witness but was told many times. It was the time when my Dad slew a dragon, or more accurately, a snake. But, more on that in a sec.
Dad and his younger brother went in together and bought about 100 acres of mostly Oklahoma bottom land just north-east of the little burg of Collinsville, (take a peek via Google Earth Maps) That’s the ol’ homestead at the bottom right, his brother’s house is the next one above. The property was abundant with water resources, the previous owner having created a fishing lake by damming one of the two creeks that ran through it. During a drought in the late ’50s, they had a dozer guy come in and dredge out the main part of the lake to create a deep reservoir for the cattle, and a better place to fish — they both loved to fish! The property was covered with mature native pecan trees, the fruits of which kept me in Christmas money each year that I lived there. But before it was all nice and park-like, when they bought it the place was almost native, much had never been cleared of the scrub brush and head-high horse weed that made walking through it near impossible. By hand ax and scythe they cleared it, square yards at a time. Occasionally, they would come across something that didn’t appreciate their efforts all that much.
I’ve been told that it was a monster of a snake, a cottonmouth water moccasin that had to be near ancient it was so huge. Several times one or both brothers had nearly stepped on this lethal creature as they made their way around the lake to fish. I think that if they ever thought about leaving some of the lake area in a wild state, the sight of that big ol’ viper gave them second thoughts. The possibility that one of us kids would be struck by it probably gave them constant nightmares. So, they hunted it, but that ol’ snake didn’t get to be that old, that big, by being easy prey. It took awhile.
As the story goes, Dad was down there in the bottoms hunting squirrel for Mom’s most favorite breakfast, (skillet-fried squirrel, biscuits and squirrel-sawmill gravy — it’s sooooo good, but that’s another yarn 😉 .) He was lookin’ up, not down, and just before stepping on the monster he caught sight of it. Lucky him — no way he would have made the walk back up to the house after being pumped full of the amount of venom that ol’ snake would have delivered. He made a slow, silent half-step back . . . looked for and found the head, and BLAM! No more head.
I wish that I had been old enough to remember, ’cause they said he came walkin’ up to the house with that big ol’ snake draped across his shotgun, and when he held that gun out shoulder high, the snake’s tail and what was left of the business end both touched the ground. That was one big, gnarly snake! He was one big, proud snake killer!
[Addition] Upon further reflection I count myself blessed to have grown up in such a time. Can anyone imagine being able to dam a stream on one’s own property these days without first jumping through bureaucratic hoops, filing environmental impact statements, soil reports ad infinitum? Probably wouldn’t be allowed to do it at all. Let alone hauling off the stone and concrete steps from the original Collinsville First Baptist Church to build a spillway across the other creek. And digging out the lake? Fugitaboutit!
Then there’d be that little matter of the poisonous snake “disposal”. PETA would probably lynch ya, or at the very least, set up a Crawford-style activist camp across the highway, form human shields around the lake’s edge, try to have the local authorities confiscate your guns.
Home of the brave, land of the free? Oh, ya betcha — maybe then, but no, not really now. [End Addition]
We lost Dad 12 years ago last month. In the last 3rd or 4th year before his death, before the Alzheimer’s had left him helpless and alone in what was left of his mind, Mom said that he was regressing as his memory deteriorated, seemingly aging in reverse, reliving his past memories. I always hoped that he would once again get to kill that snake all over again for the first time.
My Dad, the “Duke” — A Slayer of Dragons!
This entry was posted on Sunday, June 17th, 2007 at 10:51 am and is filed under Mom & Dad, Okie on the Lam. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed. | Print This Post | Email This Post
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