Snakes

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There was a field next to this place called the  ‘Tub Factory’ over by the train tracks where the behemoths roamed back home, above the  creek where we caught crawdads and …

we went there to capture  dozens of garter snakes that we could take for the asking.

We stepped on their tails and pinched them behind their heads so we could  pick them up and look at their tongues flickering and their angry eyes.

Sometimes they’d open their mouths but you could hardly see their teeth.  If they bit you …

… which you didn’t want to happen … it didn’t really matter because they had tiny teeth .. more like little bumps than anything … so their little teeth wouldn’t even break the skin.

Still, you didn’t like it because you had a hard time getting them to let go …

If you weren’t careful and rubbed their bellies, they gave off a foul smell from their pee which usually made you let them go … unless you knew not to do that.

We used to collect them in coffee cans; 6 or 8 to a can all writhing at the bottom.  I don’t know what we did with them.

Once I took a can home to show my mom.  She wouldn’t let me keep them as pets.

That field was in back of the old Eden house big and rambling with sagging facia, an uneven porch; clapboard wood siding that time had painted weathered and grey.

Do you remember them?

They were Indians … of Native American descent.  Six or 7 brothers and sisters.

They had typical Indian characteristics; brown skin, high cheekbones, the distinctive nose and thick black hair.

One of the sisters Francene, was my age.

She was sad and sweet and very shy perhaps embarrassed that she looked different or because she was abused by her father a heavy drinking railroadman.   An angry, mean man.  Abusive to people even outside of his family.

Or maybe sad Francene was shy and sweet all by herself.

One of her brothers John was the bad apple of the family.

He combed his black hair into a greasy pompadour.  He wore cuffed jeans, pointed black shoes, plaid shirts open at the neck with a white t-shirt, cigarette packs always visible in his  front pocket or rolled into the sleeve of his t-shirt, even at school.

His white teeth belied his half smile and his cold snakelike  eyes told you that you were a weakling he could kill if he wanted to.  Some said he even scared his father.

Legend was that, when John was younger, he tied cats tails  together, threw them over clothes lines and set them on fire.

Later in life, he married a nice girl,  changed his ways and became a Baptist minister.

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