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Many years ago, my mom and dad decided they wanted a fish pond in the back yard.  Now since fish ponds aren’t something you can just get at the local hardware store, it had to be “assembled” and “installed”.
Now installing a fish pond involves removing a lot of dirt out from where the fish pond is about to be, and it is definitely one of those things that involves sweat equity.  By the time you’re done, those fish better dang well be happy they’re there, because it took a lot of work to get them there.  She’d done a good bit, if not all of the work to do the installation – and had a vested interest in keeping those fish alive.

On the flip side of things, while gold fish aren’t really all that expensive, the idea of something taking the fish that, say, hadn’t earned the fish with that sweat equity, that just – well – it irritated mom.

A lot.

And one day, a poor, unfortunate creature made the incredibly bad decision to go fishing.

Now some of the creatures that had gone fishing in mom’s fish pond were raccoons, and they were moderately successful.  Some of the creatures were neighborhood cats, who just couldn’t seem to ignore the little orange – what would you call them, “containers of food”? – swimming  around in there.

Note – the image you have in your mind of these creatures fishing does not involve little raccoons or kitty cats sitting there in little kitty sized chairs, with kitty or raccoon sized fishing poles, waiting for the little fishies to bite.  They got a little more intimately involved than that, and got very close to the water, and then just scooped the fish out with their claws.  Kind of like combing some grunk out of your hair, only instead of hair, it was water, and instead of grunk it was a fish.

But this day was different.

This day the creature was running a little short on claws, and actually, a little short on fur.  See, one of the creatures that apparently liked hanging around mom’s fish pond watching said fish was a fairly large garter snake.

Now garter snakes aren’t poisonous, we used to play with them when we were kids, my cousin, bless her fuzzy little heart, would find baby ones and put them in her pocket, then come into the house with her hands full (note: her hands were ALWAYS full in these situations) and ask her mom, “Mommy, can you get the dime out of my pocket?” (it didn’t matter what she asked for – the goal was to get her mom’s hands in her pocket.)  Just so you know, her mom HATED snakes.  Her mom reached into her pocket expecting to find a dime, and instead found something that gave her an absolutely astonishing case of the heebie jeebies as she found, with her fingers, an itty bitty snake.

The polite thing to say here at this point is that my cousin laughed.

A lot.

And my aunt freaked…

A lot.

It’s one of those things you can look back on and laugh.

Well, my cousin can, not sure if my aunt can.

And that’s the kind of stuff we did as kids with garter snakes.

But… this is my mom’s story…

My mom was a little different when it came to snakes, and one day she’d found that not only was her fish pond short one fish, but the creature that had gone fishing had done so without a pole of any kind…

It was the snake.

And it most definitely upset mom.  That was HER fish, from HER pond, and no dang snake was going to take that fish from her without a fight.

So she did the first thing she knew she needed to do.

She got her camera, and took a picture – just to prove she wasn’t telling a “fish tale”.

Then she got the pitchfork – mom’s goal was to scoop the snake up and fling it away from the fish pond.

However, snakes are very good at slithering, and slithering snakes sneak stealthily away from (quick, what’s a word for pitchfork that starts with ‘s’?”).  Okay, let’s see if we have all this right…

  • Get picture of snake trying to eat goldfish… Check…
  • Got goldfish out of snake and back in water…. In progress.
  • Oh – yeah… Wail on snake with pitchfork… Not checked…

See, it was only then, after she’d gotten a picture of it that she realized scooping said snake up was not going to work, and the snake made what might have been a bit of a mistake somewhere in there.

See, mom wanted the snake gone… She didn’t necessarily want it dead, she just wanted it gone. She had more invested in her fish (by a couple of bucks) than she did in the snake, and so among other things, it was simple economics…

The snake needed to go.

But the snake didn’t go, and then it looked up at her, and then, suddenly, thousands of years of history of women and snakes converged into one moment in time.  I’m sure that if Eve had had the same pitchfork Mom did, the whole Garden of Eden thing would have been a WHOLE lot different.

Mom started absolutely wailing on that snake as if it was the son of Beelzebub himself.  (Come to think of it…J).

This snake did not know what hit it.

In fact this snake didn’t know what KEPT hitting it, but it most definitely let go of the fish.

The slithering snake dropped the goldfish right about then – so she snagged it and threw it back into the pond, where it swam speedily away…

Mom tossed the fish back into the pond, then grabbed the snake by the tail.  It was as long as from her waist to the ground.  It then made the mistake of looking up at her – with goldfish scales in its mouth – and it hissed.

Bad snake…

And the pitchfork was used, once again, for a purpose for which it was not designed, but was quite suitable for.

The snake, by that point, was getting to be pretty ambivalent about the whole thing.  In fact, with apologies to Johnny Hart, trying to slither with 432 slipped disks was a bit of a challenge, and it was then that she carried it a few hundred feet away – across a little creek, and hucked the snake over there like Indiana Jones would have flung his whip.

And the funny thing is – that snake never bothered mom or her fish again…

Go figure.

Heeere snakey snakey snakey....

One live snake… One live goldfish… (this will soon change)

Tom Roush

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