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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)

TITLE: Shake, Rattle, and Aim
By Betty Castleberry


My friend Connie called with a crisis, again. Five year old April knew instinctively when I was trying to have an important conversation and buzzed around me, chattering and whining.

“Mommy, can I have a popsicle? Please? Mommy, can I color? Please? Mommy, can I go outside? Please?”

Outside? Bingo. I could talk in peace. I held my hand over the phone and spoke softly. “You can go outside, but you know the rules. Don’t open the gate. I’ll check on you in a few minutes.” April skipped out the front door.

I was listening to Connie’s latest marital disaster when I heard the front door bang open. April ran straight to me. “Mommy!”

I turned my back to her so I could hear Connie better. April, the drama queen in training, was prone to making up stories about things she had seen or done outside. I had plenty of time to listen to details later. “Sorry, Connie. April’s being pretty loud. What did you say?”

April pummeled my back. “Mo-o-o-mmy!”

Exasperated, I turned around and actually looked at my daughter. Her little face was white, and there was genuine fear in her eyes. “There’s a snake in the yard.”

I dropped the phone and took her hand. We lived in the country, and had a garden. I assumed it was probably one of the green garden snakes we often saw, but I was going to look anyway, just to make sure.

“Tell me where the snake is, sweetie.”

Her voice shook. “It’s in the corner by the fence.”

We stopped at the front door. “Okay. You stay right here.”

I opened the door and leaned out, looking all around the small yard. That’s when I heard it; an unmistakable rattle.

A large rattle snake lay coiled up in the corner, shaking an impressive row of tan rattles in the air. This was no sissy reptile.

It’s a very good thing I had just emptied my bladder. I slammed the door and told myself not to panic.

“Did you see it, Mommy? It struck at me.”

God entrusted this little girl to me, and I had to protect her. I had recently learned to shoot a 22 caliber rifle, because living in the country in the west was not without its perils.

I got the gun and a box of shells out of the closet. I loaded it the way I had been taught, and gave instructions to April. “I am going to have to shoot the snake. You’ll hear some loud bangs. Don’t worry about the noise, and promise me you’ll stay inside.”

I opened the door slowly, hoping the snake had slithered off somewhere. It was still there. Killing anything was distasteful to me, but this time I was making an exception. I aimed at its head, but my shaking hands caused the sight to bounce up and down.

Praying I would hit the snake somewhere, anywhere, I held my breath, and squeezed the trigger. A loud pop echoed across the yard. The snake rattled. I reloaded and shot again. And again. And again. I don’t know how many shells were in the box, but I used them all.

Then I fell apart. Tears moistened my cheeks and I thanked God for giving me the strength to do what I had to do. Although I wanted to get a closer look at the dead snake, I was going to wait awhile. I had heard stories that for a short time, primitive reflexes allowed snakes to strike even after they were dead. I had my doubts, but I wasn’t about to put the theory to the test.

When I went back inside, I hugged April so hard she squealed in protest. She was instructed not to go out until I checked and said it was all right.

A few hours later, I ventured back outside and looked at the lifeless snake, still keeping my distance. I counted seven rattles. Where its head used to be was a mangled knot of something resembling hamburger meat. At least there was no question that it was dead.

I shuddered and went back in the house, remembering my conversation with Connie. I had left her hanging. It was time for me to call her back, but this time I would turn the tables. I would tell her all about my own crisis.

*This story is true. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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This article has been read 1109 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/31/07
I once found a snake in my kitchen sink in Colombia. After chasing it down to the floor, I chopped it up with a machete. Then I took it to my neighbour in the hopes of finding out what kind of snake it was. Turns out it was poisonous. It would have been a good idea for me to have been afraid before I decided to play Tarzan! All that to say, I understand your fear, especially when it has to do with a child. One thing you didn't mention was your reaction when she said the snake had struck at her — I'm assuming it didn't actually bite her. Good work.
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/31/07
I'd be "fearful" too. You told this story really well.
Joanne Sher 09/01/07
Excellent storytelling. I probably would have totally freaked out :)
valerie chambers09/01/07
I felt every word--EXCELLENT
Dee Yoder 09/01/07
Ick! I'm glad I live where very few venomous snakes reside. I hate snakes, and especially venomous ones, but the biologist in me would have probably kept my distance for a while hoping this would give the snake time to "go away". But, if he didn't, I guess I would have had to do the deed with a gun, too! This story epitomizes the word "fear" to my way of thinking. *Shudder.* Well told!
Dianne Janak09/02/07
OH MY!!! This actually happened to me a few weeks ago with my dogs barking at a HUGE water mocassin in my back yard. REALLY SCARY TO THINK of kids finding the snakes.. do you livein Texas? If so, neighbor...thanks for the relateable event!
Mark Bell09/02/07
Well told. And, I am glad to read that everyone came out of this safely.
Laurie Walker09/03/07
Sheri Gordon09/04/07
I am absolutely terrified of all snakes -- even the little garden ones. This story gave me goosebumps that won't go away. Your writing made it very easy to be in the middle of the scene -- unfortunately for me. :(

This is very good writing -- and you (or someone else?) are one very brave woman.
Kristen Hester09/04/07
I loved your story. I live in Texas where we find snakes, scorpions, opossums, racoons, deer, turtles and rabbits in our yard! My dogs and cats have been bit by snakes, but they were fine. I try to get my kids to wear rubber boats when they play outside in the woods, but they like to be barefoot. Your story reminded me to be more careful. Great job. I felt your fear!
Dara Sorensen09/05/07
"It’s a very good thing I had just emptied my bladder." I know I definitely would have wet myself seeing that! This makes me glad I live in the North, lol ^_^

Great writing!
George Parler 09/05/07
Miss Brenda would have never fired the first shot, although she would have looked like she had been shot out of a cannon on her way to the next county.

What a scary ordeal. Good story and good writing.
Sherrie Jackson09/05/07
Way to be brave!!! I really enjoyed reading this. Good luck.
Lynda Lee Schab 09/05/07
OK, I have chills. I'm with Dara...glad to live in the north. You wrote a gripping reenactment with just a dose of humor to ease the tension. Great work.
LaNaye Perkins09/05/07
Betty, I can't believe I didn't comment on this already!

I love this story, you are a true warrior mommy! Well done!
Jan Ackerson 09/05/07
Oh no oh no oh noooooooooo...I can't imagine anything more terrifying...not more terrifying than the snake, but the what if... Great story!
Patty Wysong09/05/07
Hehe. Like you, I would've emptied the box of shells, too. Especially since it had threatened a child! Makes me shake just thinking about it!!
ps-Great writitng!! :-) Hugs!!
Sharlyn Guthrie09/05/07
Wow! What great admiration I have for you. And what a miracle that your little girl was spared, considering the snake struck at her. Great story!
Kate Grey05/19/08
Bravo. I lived the story with you... well done and well told.
Mariane Holbrook 05/19/08
OMIGOSH, OMIGOSH! I'm shaking like a leaf just reading this! "What if?" indeed. Praise God for His protecting and ministering angels. That precious child would have been such an easy target. Thank God for her quick response to run and run fast. I cannot wait until I get to heaven to ask God, "What did you have in mind when you created mosquitos and snakes?" (oh, and appendix, too!)

Great story and well told. (Shiver, shiver.)