Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, June 12, 2000

A snake in the hand is better than . . . .


A snake in the hand is better than one under the seat. At least, that is how I feel now.

Of the many car adventures I have had, one stands out above the rest.

When Ron and I moved to Maple Lake in 1965 or so, we built (dug) a basement home by Highway 55, just east of town.

While we were working on the structure, we lived in a very large, old farmhouse just west of town.

The ceiling in the living room, where we slept, sagged badly.

In fact, a few days after we moved out, we stopped back to clean up. The ceiling had fallen on the floor, right in the spot where our bed had been.

The house had the greatest, old wood cook stove, no hot water, and a barely working toilet.

It was kind of like camping out, but the raccoons couldn't get in.

Anyway, my boys were one and two years old, then. At that time, car seats were flimsy little aluminum things that kept the kid off the floor, but little else.

Marty, the smallest, was in the seat of our new Volkswagen, and as we pulled out of the drive, he stood up in his little seat, leaned sideways and grabbed the wheel as he fell back into his seat.

I had no idea he could reach that far, but he did.

We drove off the road and into a water-filled ditch. Water came in the door as I got out and took the kids out to the dry road.

Who should come along right then, but my uncle and two of his boys. Just my luck, a relative!

Yes, they laughed at me, but they also pulled the car out of the ditch. They proceeded to tip it sideways and kind of shook the water out of it.

Where is the snake, you say? I'm getting there.

Later that summer, when we had moved into the basement of our new house, I found that Marty had a thing for crickets (he ate them), frogs, and snakes (he carried them around until they turned blue).

I was constantly pulling cricket legs from the corners of his mouth and releasing woozy frogs.

The boys were playing in and around the car, as I loaded all the kid necessities in for a day of shopping.

I ran back to the house to answer the phone, came out and popped the kids in the car.

As I shifted into first gear, I noticed a slight movement from under the front passenger seat.

Ever suspicious, I shut off the car and got out. As I opened the passenger door, there was the slightest flick of a snake tail disappearing from view.

With a resigned sigh, I knelt on the ground, next to the car, and peered under the seat.

Firmly wound around one of the springs was a small snake, only slightly blue.

I took a Kleenex and grabbed the tail. The harder I pulled, the harder the snake held on.

Eventually, I found that if I held a steady pressure, the snake would finally let go a little. I took up the slack, quickly, and pulled some more. As it slid off the spring, I flung it into the brush alongside the driveway with one smooth motion. At least, that is what my intentions were.

The snake landed on top of my car, instead. Perhaps this explains why I was always picked last for softball games.

I poked the snake off into the dirt, and we went shopping, amidst tears from Marty, who wanted his snake back.

Many people have car adventures. A lady I used to work with had one that involved a puppy.

She and her family were on the way to her mother's for Christmas dinner. They had the family's new puppy in the car with them.

It was bitterly cold, and her husband had on a snowmobile suit, as did everyone else. The car's heater was in one of its balky moods.

As they drove down the road, the puppy suddenly left his place on the children's laps, stood with his feet on the back of the front seat, and promptly puked down the back of said husband's snowmobile suit.

He has a bit of a weak stomach.

The car came to a screeching halt in the middle of the road, as the man leaped out and proceeded to strip in the below-zero windchill.

His wife and the kids were all laughing, and that didn't help a bit.

Needless to say, he had a shower when he got to her mother's house and borrowed clean clothes from someone there.

One of these days, I'll tell you about all the old cars we have had, and you can tell me about yours.

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