Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Baby rattle snakes and eye glasses

My parents moved to a house southwest of Boston, Texas, in 1953. The house was the newest we had ever lived in. There were two bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. There was a well out back, and an outhouse rather than a bathroom. We didn’t yet have television. I didn’t know anybody who did. There was radio, but I spent most of my time outside.

The land sloped west into a pasture, with a cow pond not far away. There was a sand road in front of the house, leading from the paved road about a mile north, curving through some trees, and then up a hill and into woods to the south.

Northeast, a big house sat on a hill. The house was not painted. A lot of houses weren’t back then. Paint cost money most people didn’t have. Our house was yellow, but it was a rent house, and the builder had painted it. A widow woman, or maybe two widow women, lived in the big house on the hill. I was never invited into the house, so I don’t know what it was like inside.

Just south of the house, the hill sloped sharply down, making about a 10-foot cliff. At the top of the hill there were cans and jars thrown out over several decades. I used to climb the hill and go through the cans and jars, looking for anything interesting.

One day I found three eye glass cases with eye glasses inside. The glasses were wire framed. I don’t know why the glasses had been thrown away. Maybe whoever used them had died and the family saw no reason to keep the glasses.

I walked down the hill and to the road and put on a pair of the glasses. The sand road seemed to split in two, with one side falling away, like a cliff. That was unsettling. I took off the glasses and let the road come back together and then put the glasses on again. The road split again, so I took off the glasses.

I figured Moma and Daddy would make me throw the glasses away if I took them home, so I climbed the hill and just below the top dug out a small place (a cave, I called it) and put the three cases inside and covered the opening. After that, I went to the cave just about every day and took out the glasses and put on each pair. The world looked different with each one, a different-different.

One summer day I went up the hill and pushed the dirt away and then quickly backed up and almost went rolling down the sharp incline.

A snake sat on my three cases of eye glasses. I crept back and looked. The snake just sat there, its serpent tongue flicking in the warm air. My mind decided it was a baby rattle snake. I knew poison from a baby rattle snake was worse than from an adult, because it was more concentrated.

I did not stick my hand inside and get the snake out. I pushed dirt into the hole and walked away and never looked for the glasses again.

That fall, my parents moved again, to a big old house west of Omaha, Texas. There weren’t any houses around or hills or cases of eye glasses or baby rattle snakes. There were tarantula spiders, though, bigger than my hands. But they were out in the tall pasture grass, along with ground bees.

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