This week’s column for the WIR.
September 5th, 2012
Quietly Contrary: Creepy Creek Snakes
By Mary Eileen Finch
It’s not that I’m not happy that my children are growing up surrounded by hundreds of beautiful lakes. I am. How wonderful it is that they get to swim in such a lovely variety of lakes. But, they sure are missing out on some good ole southern swimming hole fun!
When I was a child, in Arkansas, you have to be a bit creative at times. Sure there were all day trips to the lake but since one usually lived about an hour or two from a decent lake these special occasions were far and few between. Sometimes, if you wanted to cool off you had to settle for something a little less refreshing. I, myself, learned how to swim in a round cow-watering trough. Once I was proficient at staying afloat I graduated to neighbors’ ponds where my brothers would use me to test out their homemade rafts made from sticks and rope. “Because you weigh the least amount, Mary.” They always claimed, though I’m sure it had more to so with the fact that I would get in less trouble if I came home soaking wet from a shoddy raft than they would.
The best times were when we would stay at my older sister’s log cabin because she lived right next to a large creek. Clear Creek it was called as you could see the fish and pebbles all the way to the bottom. And there were snakes to see, too, of course.
Yes, there are over 25 kinds of snakes in Arkansas with around five of them being venomous. I personally came across rattlesnakes, cottonmouth water moccasin, and copperheads as a youngling. The water moccasin was quite common around creek beds so we always had a snake lookout. He would sit high up on the bank and yell out “SNAKE!” if one was spotted. Then all the kids would dash out of the water and wait on the shore as the snake swam past.
If, however, the snake spotter was not doing so well at his job it was quite possible that you would find yourself in the path of the snake. No big deal, though, you just froze in the water and the snake would swim away. I had to do that once. OK, I lied. It was a really big deal and while I was able to keep perfectly still like I had been taught, after it was safe for me to move I climbed out of that creek like there was no tomorrow and didn’t go swimming again for quite a while.
Another fun aspect of my sister’s creek was the fact that the Schwan’s truck had a route nearby so sometimes we would see it crossing over the bridge on its way up the hill to a delivery. When that happened my sister would send my niece running to the house for a $20 bill. (My sister grew up in California where she had fond memories of chasing after the ice cream truck for a treat. She wanted her own children to have such memoires but since she lived way out in the country it was way too far for an ice cream truck to visit. So her solution was to flag down the Schwan’s truck as it drove by, much to the driver’s amusement I’m sure.) It was always a race to get the money to the truck before it had started on its return trip because once it crossed the bridge it was too late. So my niece would rush back with the money, hand it to my brothers and they would jump in the canoe and paddle as fast as they could to the bridge to wait for the truck.
One time, as they were passing under a low hanging tree branch a water moccasin dropped off the branch into the boat! But ice cream is way more important so they just picked it up, flung it into the water, and kept on paddling towards the truck where they bought a huge box of ice cream sandwiches. That’s what was great about the Schwan’s truck; you had to buy in bulk. I still remember the thrill of sitting on the hot sand, my toes in the cool water, as my sister said, “Eat as many as you can because they are all going to melt soon!”
I much preferred sitting on the bank eating treats than being in the water where there was a chance I’d have to dance with a creepy creek snake again…so I took her up on her offer and ate quite a few!