I'd like to celebrate my grandmother today. If she were alive, she'd be 144 years old. I brought you Chapter 12 of my book the Rednak Chronicles which is available on Amazon in book form and in Kindle format. See the link at the end of the chapter. Enjoy.
As promised, a brief commentary on the Godfather of the Inglis mafia is included below.
Mama Lou’s Bag of Snakes
As a boy, my peers and I had become used to ranging far and wide in the summer, not only for work reasons, but especially for discovery and adventure. And as teenagers the call took us well beyond the extensive reaches of youthful curiosity we had already become accustomed to.
As ten year olds we thought nothing of pedaling our bikes in the predawn darkness to the other side of town, to meet up with the farm labor boss and vie for a seat on a flatbed truck for the privilege of spending seven to eight hours in the blistering sun, pitchin’ watermelons for 50 cents an hour.
By fourteen, still riding the same bike with twenty inch wheels, new “banana’ style seat, cow horn handlebars and over-sized sprocket for amazing top end speed, my friends and I wouldn't think twice about a marathon trip to wooded pond sites to spear bass and capture bullfrogs, often facing down inquisitive alligators over a strip of shoreline we wanted to work on.
It seemed like every summer was the same with subtle changes involving peer justice, stamina, and who knew who in the right positions of “power”. Growing into puberty, my freshman year of high school, it was easy to grasp the compelling story of Steinbeck’s Lord of the Flies. And it was easy to accept the promise of status change coming the next year, that you could see from the bottom up standing ankle deep in the hot ass sugar sand of a tobacco or melon field.
Never-the-less, the “play” times were the stuff of bragging rights. From big ol’ snakes, to illegal alligators, snappin’ turtles and coon hides. A parade of short term menagerie tenants and bags of reptiles and baby critters for horse trading and showin‘ off.
Every parent of the members of our clan of feral young boys had made it more than perfectly clear that there were limits. Some allowed caged captives, some allowed only the evidence of skins drying on the garage walls out back and some just pretended that their Lil’ Darlin’ didn’t do those sorts of things. Funny how some things don’t change a whit from generation to generation: Parents in denial of what their kids do in their unsupervised spare time.
It was August and many of us were driving now. Doable farm work for kids, had been over for a few weeks and odd jobs were all done for the season, too. The days were hot, muggy, and still very long. We had cornered a gigantic Coach Whip - - - 84 inches! Ross Allen had given us $300 for this monster; after dozens of bags of indigos, banded and red bellied water snakes, Florida king snakes, and sundry others, at one to three dollars a bag. We all swore to Ross that day, that we were going to be snake wranglers when we took our adult slots in the working world. Looking back on all that commotion, it was pretty obvious that the great Ross Allen only bought all those bags of harmless reptiles from us kids as a kind gesture and which I am now convinced he liberated as soon as we drove away. But, by tolerating a handful of boys and indulging them for a few minutes each time they showed up at the back gate of his Silver Springs attraction, he ended up with a record sized specimen in the Coach Whip that was considerably cheaper than the $5,000 reward he had posted for an eight foot rattlesnake brought in alive.
The school year was about to commence and we decided that we would do something that would be talked about for years to come. At least from our perspective, we thought it would. We’d catch a four to five foot gator and after painting the school mascot name “Hurricanes”, on his back we’d drive him down to Gainesville and throw him in with Albert, the University of Florida’s mascot gator who was slightly bigger than our candidate - - at almost thirteen feet!.
Two of us took a duck boat out to Cross Creek and right after dark, we launched from Buchannon’s Fish Camp, motored down the creek into Orange Lake and in about thirty minutes grunted us up a couple of nice little alligators.
The first one to come up to the boat we slipped a noose onto his head and drug him thrashing over the side. He weighed about twenty pounds, but was hell bent we weren't keeping him with us. Finally, we got his mouth and eyes taped and bagged him up in an old duffle bag that we used for a snake bag most of the time.
We drove over to Ruby’s liquor store at McIntosh and got a guy in the parking lot to buy us a six pack of beer. Then we drove home and christened the little alligator with white block letters that resembled the word “Hurricanes”. At least, if you looked at it from the right angle. Didn’t matter much, as the actual fete and introduction into Albert’s world was the stuff of this future legend, not the high school mascot title on the little guy’s back.
It was decided under the influence of two six percent beers that I would hold the gator in the bag until the following night, then the release would take place and we would go home to await the headlines in the next day’s local paper - - - LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL THWARTS U. OF Fla. SECURITY AND LEAVES ALBERT A NEW PEN MATE!
When I got home around nine o’clock I figured there was only one place to put the bagged alligator and that was in the former outhouse, in the backyard, that was used for storing yard tools and bird feed. The little building was right outside my bedroom windows in the sunroom addition of our frame cracker house. I could monitor the comings and goings of any interloper and if necessary be in the yard in a matter of seconds if someone tried to make off with the reptilian booty. I opened the outhouse door and deposited the duffle bag in the middle of the closeted darkness. The gator thrashed around for a few seconds and then stilled. I closed the door and latched it and went back around to the front of the house, as if I was just getting home.
Mama Lou said, “Was that you I just heard out back?“ I answered, “No, it was probably the pigeons or a cat.”
I thought, “Boy, she don’t miss a thing when hiding is the mission”
It was light when I was awakened and quickly looked out to the yard to see my grandmother walking with a laundry basket. I assumed the obvious and flopped back down, rolling over with my face in the pillow. The next thing I heard was a blood curdling scream and crashing, banging, mayhem coming from inside the outhouse.
My name was being screeched as if celebrating banshees had found me out and wanted to announce it to the entire universe. My thoughts were that the gator had gotten loose and had Mama Lou by the foot tearing her limb from limb. It was a small gator, but my grandmother was small, too!
I was barefooted in the yard now, trying to figure out what to do next. The outhouse calamity sounded like a cement mixer full of bricks. It was probably less than a minute, but after an eternity of cursing, howling and thrashing the outhouse door popped open and Mama Lou, stepped out calmly, holding a short handled shovel in one hand and the wadded up the hem of her dress in the other.
She was looking at me like a person possessed. And she repeated . . . Over and over again. . . . “A bag full of snakes. You left a bag full of snakes!”
She marched across the yard towards me now, holding the shovel like a broad ax and in a low voice saying she was cutting a switch. I retreated around the side of the house while she dug around in the camellia bush for a suitable switch with the right size for durability and plenty of flex for raising thought provoking whelps of corporal recognition. When I reached the front I decided that in the house was not the right place to seek sanctuary. I didn’t have car keys, a shirt or shoes. So, escape would have to be via the sidewalk because all the yards in the neighborhood were full of sandspurs this year and a foot full of them would be as pitiful as the thrashin’ I was looking to get.
Sprinting down the block I could hear the strains of, “A bag full of snakes !- - a bag full of damn snakes!” I made it all the way to my friend Joe’s and temporary refuge. His mom fixed us pancakes and eggs.
For years, Mama Lou told that story and her version never deviated from the “bag full of snakes” description. My mom came and got me at Joe’s after lunch and I explained to her that the bag had one four and a half foot alligator in it, not a bunch of snakes. She explained that my grandmother stepped into the shed to grab a rake to prop up the clothesline and stepped right on the duffle bag. That caused the alligator inside to begin to thrash about in the dim light. Mama Lou could see the bag gyrating, violently tossing itself around the floor of the shed house, and her vivid imagination took it from there. She pummeled that bag, and the poor gator inside, until it fell quiet. When I went out later to get the gator he was pulverized. I didn’t get the beatin’ I expected, but the ”law” was pretty clear on reptiles from that day on. “No snakes, no grunt gators, no frogs, no reptiles of any persuasion - - period!”
Small town, semi-rural life went on for us pretty normally, until a year later when a few of us went back to Silver Springs to see the TODAY show with Dave Garraway. There must have been three to four hundred people there that day and we managed to push our way right up front so that every time the television camera panned the crowd you could see the four truants waving happily like snow birds with the rest of the crowd.
The next morning at school the assistant principal called us up to his office for a chat. Seems several mothers watched the TODAY show every morning and at least one of ours recognized us along with about a half dozen other parents who knew us well. Each in turn, called Mr. Joe and ratted us out.
Mr. Hudson had been as pleasant as always, even as he busted each of our butts three swats with the wide end of the paddle drilled with holes. Those bruises probably lasted two weeks.
Interested in the book? Follow the link- Click here.
What The . . . ? #2
For those of you who missed the following e:mail, I am running it for the next two months because the political genius who sent it, needs to be exposed.
Reading this again, I am negatively impressed by the fact that there are more than one of these mentally deficient, nuthouse, escapees on the loose in southern Levy County. Several of them, are
running for the Inglis Board of Commissioners, including the Gang of Five leader, the Godfather. If I didn't know the name of the sender, I would have thought that a disgruntled eleven year old was a new reader. Bill Monteverde wants to run your town? ??????????????
Into the ground.
By: Bill Monteverde (firstname.lastname@example.org) Commented On: Pearls & More Rot... Date Commented: 09/27/14 03:56PM
Bill Monteverde said:
You have crabs!!! You know that this is a treatable condition?
Stephanie, please take care of yourself since these little critters can be transmitted to others. Please don't use the Town Hall bathroom
Good luck to you Stephanie
Powerful stuff that I was supposed to lose sleep over.
More than Enuff said.