In my mind, there are two major fears. There are lots of little fears like heights, getting caught staring at someone and stuff like that, but only two major ones - snakes or spiders! And...these two fears do not ever come combined. You are either afraid of one or the other. In my case, it's spiders. I hate them. I have learned to tolerate them to some extent because life has taught me that they do have a purpose, but I still don't like them around me. Daddy, on the other hand, had a morbid fear of snakes.
This fear surmounted all fears of any human being I have ever known. It was a fear so tremendous that he did not mind letting his own children know it existed. Most men don't want their kids to know there is anything vulnerable about them. Daddy was the type of man who not only let us know he was afraid of snakes but didn't mind hurting us if we got in the way of either the path of escape or the firing line between him and a snake. Once, he shot an old hose pipe so many times, you couldn't even tell it had been laying in those weeds! Of course, he later professed to be "practicing up" in case the real thing did show up.
My brother and I were just the opposite. I am not sure my brother had any fear of anything - snakes OR spiders, but he especially loved to catch the snakes, hand them to me and we would just wonder at their mystical values. My Mom was an advocate of "King Snakes" which she said would kill everything else in the barn...spiders, rats, rattle snakes and so on. So, not only did Daddy have to deal with his fear of snakes, but with the constant situation of either brother and I catching them behind his back or my sneaky mother depositing our latest find in the barn for "protection".
As we got older, a sense of evil surrounded our intellect and we began figuring out that the best way to torture Daddy and get a few laughs were the occasional snake jokes. This usually involved a live snake, but sometimes that resulted in a cow getting shot or something so we soon discovered that the toy industry had designed real looking rubber snakes. Oh what joys a rubber snake can bring a teenager.
You have to know at this point that practical jokes of the cruelest sort were Daddy's forte, so to ever get him back was our last dying wish if indeed it did result in our death. Our old barn was built in the early 1900s and just stayed up by the will of God. To get to the hay in the loft, you had to climb the wall -literally - Daddy, being the farming genius he was, figured out that if he nailed pieces of 2 x 4's (scrap pieces at that), you could CLING to them enough to use them to scale up the wall and into this small hole in the side of the barn loft. He loved to demonstrate his mastery of this skill to one and all, especially if his "city" co-workers decided to come for a visit.
Daddy always managed to have his guests stay until feeding time and would volunteer to relieve my brother of the hay duty, having his friends in tow to demonstrate his superiority in barn maneuvers. It was the day his boss visited that stands out in my memory the most.
We had managed to procure one of those wonderful rubber snakes at the Big K with what meager returns we garnered from our ditch coke bottle recovery trip. This particular one was amazing - marked just like a real rattlesnake, tongue pointing out, evil red eyes glaring at you and flexible enough to put in any form of striking or coiling.
Brother managed to get it positioned in "Striking" prose just over the edge of that little step ladder - as you raised up clinging for life to that last so-called step and were just ready to let go and grab the floor to heave yourself over - there was that snake! It was divine! I worshipped my brother - he was such a master at Daddy torture and this was the best effort yet. I didn't even mind that we might lose the money on the snake. And Daddy would be so proud of us once he realized that snake was rubber, it would be a joke of historical significance in our family.So, off Daddy went to the barn.
What we didn't plan for was first, the company and second, the fact that Daddy carried his 45 with him whenever someone was visiting instead of his little wussy 22. This 45 was a gift from an uncle of his and must have been almost as old as the barn. If you pulled the trigger, it went into automatic mode and didn't stop firing until the clip was empty - or at least that was what happened most of the time. Daddy said he had fixed it as Mother objected to him loading it into the holster and told her not to worry. We were just beside ourselves by now, on the one hand so excited our master plan was about to be played out, on the other hand convinced that afterwards we would probably die since the boss and his kids were here to witness it. But even Daddy would laugh at the ability of his kids to pull off such a surprise right?
It was really too late to do anything. Sure, brother tried to convince Daddy he LOVED feeding so much he wanted to do it, but that didn't work.
There isn't a lot left to this story. As Daddy was clearing the top step, he saw the evil rubber snake as it was reaching out to get him between the eyes. He pulled the 45 as he let go of that last step and discovered quickly he had not fixed the gun. He didn't even HIT the rubber snake which thrilled us to have salvaged the investment, but he pretty much blew the top step off the wall, the wall off the floor of the loft and a few holes in the roof on his way down. It was funny to see his snobby boss and those snobby brat kids running for their lives out of that barn. We heard the word "SNAKE" but I think it was actually the flying bullets that gave them super human speed.
I am not really sure how long it took Daddy to get back up...we ran too! This is another one of those "not another word" stories. Daddy knew he was beat but that was a temporary victory - believe me, it was VERY TEMPORARY. For some reason, he NEVER saw the humor in that wonderful rubber snake - go figure.
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