Saturday, September 03, 2005


A discussion a few days ago about spiders and snakes reminded me of an event that occurred on a family vacation when I was a teenager.

(the image gets wavy as we slip back in time. It settles as we find ourselves on the campground of an Indian Reservation somewhere in Oklahoma in the Summer of '69)

My parents, two younger sisters and I had spent a week camping on the beach at Galveston, Texas; and were on our way home. We had stopped for the night at the Indian Reservation. There was a stream not far from our camp, and we were playing in it shortly before bedtime. The water was freezing, which helped numb my feet so I could walk on the sharp rocks without my shoes.

We had had a long ride up from Galvasten that day and were talking about the tarantulas we had seen on the road. There were some reservation kids playing in the stream with us and told us that tarantulas can jump. I don't really know if they can, but it added to our excitement about them.

After awhile, Mom came down to tell us it was time to get out of the stream and get ready for bed. We had these new sleeping bags which had a separate compartment into which we would slide our air mattress. It was great not having to feel rocks and sticks poking into our backs. I settled into my sleeping bag, hearing the air "whoosh" around in the air mattress.

I heard a mosquito buzzing around my ear and realized I hadn't sprayed myself down before getting into bed. I asked dad to pass the mosquito spray. I heard him sigh, roll over, saw the flashlight click on. Then heard him gasp.

"Doris" he said sternly to my mother. "Get out of the tent, take the girls with you. NOW." I turned to see what was going on but my mom was standing, blocking my vision of the corner of the tent that had Dad's attention.

I heard my sister say "Tarantula". I remembered what the girl in the stream said about them jumping and felt fear choking me. I realized my sister couldn't see what was in the corner any more than I, but there was SOMETHING over there that had both of my parents quite upset.

I tried to unzip my sleeping bag, but the zipper got stuck. I stood up in the bag and tried to shimmy out of it. The air mattress was hindering that effort. Somehow, I got turned around and was facing the mattress. I would push down on the material of the bag, bend the air mattress backwards away from me and it would fly back up and hit me in the face. This happened several times.

My dad said, "Donna, what are you doing? Get out of here!"

Still in the sleeping bag, I hopped my way across the tent, the air mattress hitting me in the face with every hop. Hop. Whomp. Hop. Whomp. My natural God-given awkwardness was accetuated by the sleeping back/air mattress combo. At one point, close to the door of the tent, I fell forward, the motion sliding me out of the bag across the air mattress. During my slide, I glanced sideways towards the corner of the tent and saw a snake coiled, highlighted by Dad's flashlight.

YIKES. My fear ratcheted up a few notches and I was now in full blown panic.

In one bound, I lept from the door of the tent to the hood of the car, joining my mother and sisters who were already perched on the hood of our '66 Mustang. I remember hearing someone snicker. Apparently, I had made quite a sight sliding out of the mattress and then leaping to the car.

The four of us sat on the car, our feet tucked underneath of us and watched as sleeping bags, air mattresses and luggage came flying out of the tent, being thrown out by dad.

He came out and retrieved a broom with a 3' handle that we used for cleaning the tent. He stood at the door, brandishing the broom, took a deep breath and then entered the tent. We saw the green canvas sides bulge and ripple, and heard whomping sounds as a battle took place inside.

It got quiet.

Dad emerged, the snake draped over the handle of the broom. He took it to the edge of the woods and flipped it into the darkness.

He came back to us and said, "OK, we can go back into the tent now."

The four of us shook our heads "no" in unison and at the same time said, "Motel."

We loaded up a few things into the car and drove 20 minutes into town. As we were walking across the parking lot, we all realized I was limping. A lot. The bottom of my right foot was burning. My youngest sister, 10, yelled, the snake bit her!"

When we got inside, dad inspected my foot and it had a three inch gash on the bottom of it which was packed with sand and dirt. Remember when I said the stream was so cold that it numbed my feet so I could walk on the rocks? Seems like that wasn't a good idea. I also couldn't feel the rocks slice into my foot.

After a trip to the emergency room and a tetanus shot (OUCH!!!) we finally go to bed.

We never found out what kind of snake it was, whether or not it was venomous. It didn't matter. It was a snake in our tent and that is now allowed. Ever since, sister, Carol, does a careful inspection of all corners of the tent before settling down for the night. And if she didn't, I would.


Leetie said...


Reason #48c I don't like camping.

neophyte said...

Ah, the joys of camping. I learned from a friend always to carry a brick with me when camping, for just this kind of emergency.

Who else would love to see a home movie of Sly's sleeping bag hop? Complete with the whomp whomp sound effects?

rita said...

Doesn't matter if the snake isn't venomous. It's a SNAKE, for God's sake!

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