The black snake, stretched out on the hard clay, was nearly five feet long. We stood watching to see if it would slither back toward the woods or toward the basement entrance of the house our son and his family had been building.
Our son’s father-in-law, a seasoned outdoorsman, looked at me with my hands over my mouth stifling screams and said, “That snake is just as afraid of you as you are of it.”
“Lies!” I thought to myself. “He’s a good man, but he’s lying!” I knew he was lying because at no time did the snake have hands over its mouth stifling screams.
He also said black snakes are good because they eat rats and mice. A lot of animals eat rats and mice, but that doesn’t mean I want them near the grandchildren.
He said the snake would not bother anyone unless it felt cornered.
Sometimes in life things are said that you never forget—that a black snake will not bother you unless it feels cornered is one of them.
Several weeks later our son’s family called to FaceTime with us. They were huddled together in front of the phone. The littlest one had something to say.
“Snake in dah cah,” she whispered.
The others sat frozen as Daddy Bear unpacked the story. He, Mama Bear and the five cubs were making another pilgrimage to the big box store in town for building supplies when Mama Bear, wearing sandals, felt something slither across her feet. She looked down and saw a black snake, whereupon she screamed, “Somebody ate my porridge!” No wait. Wrong story.
Mama Bear screamed “There’s a snake in the car!”
Papa Bear slammed on the brakes. Mama Bear reached into the backseat to open the latch on the minivan door, but the blacksnake was crawling up the door. The door by the 2-year-old’s car seat.
Oh yeah. Snake in dah cah!
Daddy Bear and Mama Bear opened minivan doors from the outside and told the cubs to unbuckle from their car seats and run for it.
The cubs ran and the adult bears watched the snake slither along the passenger-side window and down out of sight. They flipped open the back gate to the vehicle.
The snake had coiled around a bolt anchoring the rear seat to the floor of the minivan. The snake was content. And why not? The snake had backpacks, jackets and shoes for cover, Cheerios, dried fruit snacks and bits of granola bars for snacks. It was four-star dining.
Papa Bear cajoled the snake with a long stick, but it wouldn’t move. Then, a large fellow the size of a Chicago Bears linebacker appeared and offered help. He pulled with all his might on the tail of the snake. He pulled and grunted and broke great beads of sweat, and finally the snake let go, flinging out of the car and calmly slithering away.
The snake was gone, and most of the kids were, too. Papa Bear said to Mama Bear, who still had trauma tears streaming down her face and a toddler on her hip, “Let’s get the kids and go. The big box is open for 10 more minutes.”
Sometimes in life things are said that you never forget. “The big box is open for 10 more minutes” will be one of them.