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Learning the lessons taught by snakes

By Bill Shepard

I am not a smart person. In school I always sat at the back of the room and behind the largest person I could find. I did that so the teacher couldn’t see me and ask me questions. Sometimes she would see me with my head on my desk, trying to hide, and she would ask me a question about the lesson. I never raised my hand, even if I thought I knew the answer, but would often call on me! I wanted to say, “Why call on me; if I knew the answer I would raise my hand!” With all the others begging me to give her the answer, she would call on one who didn’t know. Well, there were lots of things about school that I didn’t understand until I became a teacher myself, and that was a long time afterward. Of course there were some things learned outside of the classroom, and they were more valuable than some learned inside the classroom. I learned some valuable lessons while fishing along the muddy banks of Swift Creek. There were lots of snakes in those swamps! From where I lived on the mill village, I walked along that winding stream in search of places deep enough for the fish to stay. We called it “up the creek” and “down the creek.” Down the creek meant following the stream from the village in the direction of St. John’s school. Of course, up the creek meant the opposite direction. Up the creek was my favorite direction to travel to fish. As a boy, I followed that stream for miles in both directions. There were no alligators in Swift Creek, at least I never saw one, but there were snakes aplenty! How I kept from being bit by a snake I don’t know, except the good Lord was saving me for other purposes. In later years, I wondered what my mama was thinking to allow me to go off to that swamp right by myself to fish! It just didn’t seem to bother her at all! Anyway, I did a lot of fishing along that lazy winding stream. You can learn a lot when you are allowed to ramble deep inside a dark cypress swam. I did! I learned a few things about snakes while rambling through Swift Creek swampland. At my early age I did not know how to tell the difference between a good snake and a bad snake. Not knowing the difference, I regarded them all as being bad! I learned another thing; you never take your eyes off a snake once you see it! The reason being, by the time you see the snake, it sees you! Snakes being as smart as they are, if you take your eyes off it, when you look back that snake will be gone! I have had that happen more than once. They are smart, you know. In the Bible Jesus said they are wise! He also said we should be as wise as they are! One preacher said that folk ought to have snake sense! I had a lot of encounters with snakes while fishing along the banks of Swift Creek. I don’t believe there was ever a person that fished in Swift Creek more than I did when I was a boy. Sometimes I would take my own little frying pan along and when I was finished fishing and I was hungry, I would clean my fish, start a fire, and cook them right there along the creek bank. Usually I would have a friend along when I did that. Now I said that I learned a lot of things while fishing in Swift Creek; I learned about snakes and how to deal with them! When I first laid eyes on one, I set out to kill it. I didn’t cut a twig and tickle it along its back. I went in for the kill! Usually I had a hoe along with which to dig for fishing worms. With hoe in hand, I aimed at the snake’s head. I knew if I cut the snake’s head off it would die! I learned that from experience! To be sure, the snake would wiggle and stretch and curl up, but death would surely come! The next day I might pass along hat same spot, and I would see the dead body lying where it had died. I’ve been thinking about those days and happenings, and I believe the same thing would happen to those terrorist organizations that are doing all those mean things around the world. When they first started, if powerful nations would have risen up and gone for the head instead of what they did, or didn’t do, that snake would have been dead before now! Folk who are smarter than myself advised our leaders to do that but they didn’t listen. Now the world really has a problem! There are more snakes and they are scattered all over the world. History has taught us that we should have learned that lesson long ago, but it seems that we humans are often not as smart as we should be about things like that. The story of Hitler and Hirohito, and World War II, are good examples of what I am trying to write. That’s another lesson that history taught but it seems that it will have to be taught again! I know that dealing with snakes may be different than dealing with people, but both die if their heads are cut off.

Author: Rachel Howell

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