Thursday, October 24, 2013

Raising Snake Hunters

When we moved to the country nearly eight years ago, one of the first calls I made was to the local community hospital to make sure that they could handle snake bites.  Their response didn't immediately set me at ease.  I mean it did, but well, here's what they said: "Yes, Ma'am.  We just took care of a little girl last week that got bit on the playground."  The playground, really?  We just built a house in the middle of a pasture.  I had no "yard" yet, let alone a "playground" for the kids.  Then they finished with, "If you should experience a snake bite, just be sure to identify the snake so we we'll know what anti-venom to use."  Oh sure.  No problem.
Jewell was 3 1/2 and Brack was 10 months when we moved in, so I really didn't worry about them getting snake bit back then.  Gerald and me - now that's a different story.  We were still "taming the wilds" putting in flower beds and clearing out woods near the house.  (Yes, Mama, I know.  We still have a lot to do.  We'll get right on that!)  I was raised "in the country", but I will admit it - I didn't go outside.  Not if I could help it.  (I hear my brothers laughing.)  But this is MY house.  My yard.  My flower beds.  Until we hit the lotto and I can hire a gardener, it's all us.  And Gerald will tell you, I get out there now and work him us to death.
As the kids grew up, we began to talk about what to do if they ever saw a snake.  In one word - RUN!  Forget trying to look at the shape of his head.  Forget "red on black, pat him on the back.  Red on yellow - now that'll kill a fellow".  (BTW - I suggest you research that.  Don't take my word for it!)  We have told our kids over and over, ALL snakes are bad.  Stay away from all snakes.  I know some people will argue with me on that, but when you live somewhere that has a very high probability that you will encounter a snake, I don't think you take chances.
We have seen a few on our place.  One cottonmouth was wrapped around the base of the hydrangea bush I was crouched down next to pruning.  Gerald had poked around it with the shovel before I started, and, luckily, he was still standing there when it moved.  I think he actually grabbed me by the hair to get me out of the way.  There was a non-poisonous one in the flower bed a couple of weeks ago.  (Doesn't matter.  Heart-attack factor is the same.)  And then there was the one that the dogs pinned down in the front shade bed one night.  When Gerald shined his light on a big pile of coiled-up snake, he didn't hesitate to blow it away.  We later learned it was a red-bellied tree snake (non-poisonous) that are known to lie across the branches in trees at the edge of the water and drop down on you in a boat.  For that reason alone, it deserved to die!

Last Sunday afternoon, Gerald and the kids went over to some land my dad leases that the kids love to "adventure" on.  Gerald had the passing thought that it was still too warm, but the kids persuaded him to go.  The kids were doing whatever they do over there, and suddenly Brack said, "Dad, I think that's a dead snake over there on those leaves."  Well - he was half right.  It was a cottonmouth.  Live cottonmouth.  Brack excitedly asked if he could shoot it.  Gerald proudly handed him the shotgun.  (Their grandmothers had minor heart attacks when they heard this story, like good grandmothers should.)  Jewell also volunteered to kill it if Brack didn't want to.  I would say "that's my girl", but no, in this case, she is definitely her father's daughter.

Good thing Brack was wearing his spinjitzu shirt.
After all - killin' snakes is a very ninja-y thing to do.

I am glad to report there is now one less snake in Elmore County.  I am also glad to report that all in all - the kids did what we have trained them to do.  They were cautious and aware of their surroundings.  They involved their Daddy when they needed to.  It all turned out with a happy ending.
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Proverbs 22:6
And isn't that our goal as parents?  To train our children.  To equip them with the knowledge they need to make good, safe decisions.  Both in life, and well, in LIFE. 

"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
Psalms 119:105 

It is so important that we give our kids the tools they need to get the job done.  Gerald believes in flashlights.  We have big ones and small ones.  We have them in the cars, and next to the beds.  We have oil lanterns and wind-up flashlights.  And he loves using his headlamp when he takes the trash down to the road.  He believes in being prepared, and he is passing that along to our kids.  They didn't need a flashlight last Sunday afternoon, but thank goodness, they were watching their path and they remembered what we had taught them.
"Teach them to your children,
talking about them when you sit at home
and when you walk along the road,
when you lie down and when you get up."
Deuteronomy 11:19
Just because the kids handled this snake run-in with flying doesn't mean that we will no longer warn them about snakes when they go out to play.  We will remind them because they may not always have their .410 shotgun with them.  Or their Daddy.  Nor will we rely on past conversations and instructions to keep them safe from The Serpent who lies in wait for them as they grow and mature as children of the King.  We will continue to tell them of the dangers that are out there.  We will continue to prepare them for whatever life may throw at them.  It's our job as parents.  It's what you do when you are raising snake hunters.

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