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Snakes Are Creepy

Linda WilliamsSince it's summer, I decided to come up with some good old snake stories.

I don’t like those slimy reptiles. Truth is, I detest them. If we see them on a bicycle trail, you can hear me screaming a half mile away.

Growing up on our farm I used to see water snakes near the bridge on my way to the mailbox. I learned to pedal my bike with great gusto to avoid them. On occasion, my parents would ask me to deliver milk to an older couple in Loysburg. One evening, Rose and Jake entertained by telling me snake stories. Consequently, I had also been asked to pick up a spring for the screen door. Driving home, I looked over, and saw the black spring and for an instant thought it was a snake. I had to stop the car to reassure myself it was okay.

Perhaps that is why snake stories seem to keep happening to me. Many years ago, I had gone out for a walk on a rainy spring evening. My husband was off to one of his singing gigs. As I walked around the house, I noticed what I thought was piece of black hose lying in the yard.

My always fastidious husband rarely lets anything out of place, so I was puzzled. In my quest to know more, I kicked the black thing and it rose up like a ballerina dancer on its tail. Realizing I had just disturbed a black snake, I took off around the house and in the front door. It took me an hour to stop shaking. By that time, the snake was half way to Cumberland.

On another occasion, I was doing an interview at a greenhouse and a mother and daughter were telling me about snakes in their house. They took it all with a very casual attitude as they explained they had never been able to get rid of those darned critters. Sometimes, the girl said, they hung on the rafters in the basement and swung against the basement door. When they invited me in for tea, I politely declined.

I've heard that snakes do not like cats. That explains my enjoyment of these soft, purry pets. One morning, a big black snake crawled into the sun on the hillside near our house. Our Tom cat, Francis, found it resting peacefully and immediately pounced on this strange-looking creature. For the next hour, he pulled its tail, then ran around to watch it hiss. He apparently found it amusing. The snake, on the other hand, crawled away and never returned.

While snakes thankfully avoid our house, they do visit our neighbors. An elderly widow in her 80s, called my husband to tell him there was a rattlesnake on her back porch and she was afraid to shoot it because her hand was no longer steady. Knowing that rattlesnakes are protected, my husband picked up his shotgun and walked to the lady’s home. Once there, he told the snake that he was about to shoot and if it was in the way, that was too bad.

But the most absolutely funny snake story I have ever heard came from a friend. This delightful couple had recently got a kitten from the Humane Society and was teaching it the wheres and whys of their lovely home located in a wooded area. They let the door open so the kitten could learn how to go in and out of the house at will.

As the lady of the house was weeding some flowers, she noticed a black tail disappear through the door and assumed it was the kitten. Looking down, she saw the kitten was standing in front of her. Then, what was that black tail?

Oh no, she screamed to her husband, a snake had just gone into the house. The husband’s opinion of snakes runs parallel to mine. Realizing they had to find it, it he grabbed a pair of meat tongs and he and the wife began looking.

Wife saw it disappear into the front closet where their coats were stored. Husband caught a glimpse as it climbed the closet wall then, again, it vanished.

They knew, much to their dismay, the snake had crawled inside one of their 15 to 20 coats. On that cold spring evening, they one by one, took coats off  hangers, shook them, and threw them out the front door.

This scenario continued coat after coat until reaching the last one, a leather coat, in size large. As they picked it from the hanger, they realized it was heavier than it should be. The slithery reptile was stretched from one sleeve to the other, obviously comfortable.

The Mrs. held the coat by the hanger while the Mr. used the tongs to grab it and pitch as far as he could out the front door over the pile of coats. Unfortunately, it hit a tree and was knocked unconscious. At this point, the wife actually felt sorry for the poor creature thinking that it had “shaken baby syndrome”. Within an hour it came around and crawled off down the hill. What a story it had to tell in the pit that night.

We do live in Pennsylvania and snakes are native to our countryside but I would much prefer that we meet only on very rare occasions.


Photo by Fotolia/claudeheon

My Guardian Angel

Linda WilliamsI sincerely believe that each of us has a guardian angel who does their very best to look after us during our days on earth.

For the most part, mine can take it pretty easy. I don’t ride motorcycles or climb mountains. I stay out of the woods on windy days and I don’t stay out late at night. It’s a pretty cushy job for a guardian angel.

But there are those times when action is required. One such event happened a few weeks ago.

We were going to visit our son in Albuquerque. I had bought tickets on Southwest in October and immediately announced that we would be flying on March 8, 2016. This meant we would leave for the Baltimore Airport on March 7, spend the night, and be quite ready to catch the plane the next morning.

I wrote March 7 on all the calendars. My son also wrote it on his. I made a reservation at the hotel and phoned the cat sitter to begin on March 8. I printed off my travel itinerary from the airlines and put it in a safe place. I also marked on the calendar that we would have to check in to the airlines at 9:45 on Monday, March 7.

Sunday, March 6, after church, we began packing. Within a few hours we had everything tucked into our luggage. My husband put gas in the car and extra cat litter boxes in the garage. Our plans were to run a few errands on Monday morning, of course check in with the airlines, and do some laundry. We were so prepared.

About 8 p.m. that evening we were watching television. I was anxious for the final show of Downton Abby and my husband was going to have a gab fest with his ham radio buddies. My ever present Ipad was on my lap and I took time to check my emails. There was one from Southwest. “Your plane is ready for takeoff,” it read. “And, you can get Wi-Fi on your flight tomorrow.”

My heart skipped a beat … flight tomorrow? What on earth had happened to Southwest? My flight was Tuesday, not Monday. My guardian angel hit me alongside the head. “Go check,” it whispered in my ear. “Go check!”

Back I went to the bedroom and found the travel documents tucked in my husband’s carryon. There it was, in black and white. The plane departure was Monday, March 7, 9:15 a.m.

I have never had a panic attack. I honestly did not know what people meant when they said they had one. The next few minutes clued me in as to what they are all about. I could not breathe. I tried to tell my husband what I had done. I couldn’t talk. Finally, I got it out.

“Are you sure?” was his question.

“See for yourself,” I said as I handed him the paper with trembling hands.

“Well,” he said quite calmly. “First of all, start breathing and then call the hotel. See if we can come tonight. We will leave right now. The plane hasn’t left yet. Call the hotel, check in with the airlines, call the cat sitter and we are out of here.”

By 8:30 we were on the road. Traffic was light and the weather was clear. My guardian angel took care of all that. The rest of our trip was wonderful and totally uneventful.

Other outstanding events in the life of my guardian angel since I have been an adult are also quite vivid.

Back in about 1997, we were vacationing at Peggy’s Cove in Nova Scotia when I blatantly ignored a sign telling folks to be careful of the slippery rocks. I tumbled down a 20 foot rocky cliff narrowly missing my head with each bounce. I came out of it with only a few scratches and a broken finger. My guardian angel gave me a severe “tsk” “tsk”. However knowing that I am usually pretty good about obeying rules and regulations, I was saved from serious injuries.

Another time, I was driving down my driveway on a particularly hectic morning. We had been keeping some District Band students at our home overnight. I was making a turkey for an upcoming church event and I had to get to work. It was snowing lightly and we had just gotten a new mailbox.

The new box changed my line of vision of the highway and I did not see an approaching white car without lights in the snow. As I pulled onto the highway, there it was. I did some fancy steering and sent my prayers upward. “I don’t have time for an accident today,” I said. “I have far too much on my plate.”

That quickly, my guardian angel went into action. I missed the other car by about a 1/2 inch. That driver also did some quick thinking and ended up alongside the road. He wasn’t a bit nice and I could not really blame him. However, he was not hurt, I was not hurt, and since there was no damage … thanks to my guardian angel, we both went on our way.

A few years back, I think I actually met my guardian angel. I was headed for the Walmart shopping plaza and made a turn onto Route 30 from the side road by the industrial park. This time, I had obeyed all the rules. The lady coming from the west did not. As I made the turn with the green light, the other driver disregarded her red light and simply drove into the back of my car.

For an instant I wondered what had happened. I stopped the car and looked up to see a young man peering in my window. “Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yes,” I answered. “What just happened?”

“That lady drove into you,” he said. “Do you have a cell phone?”

I called my husband and the police and my insurance office where I worked at that time.

The young man, medium height, wearing a hooded sweat shirt and jeans, stayed with me, gave the story of what happened to the police officer and then disappeared. At one point, I asked his name, but he did not answer.

After the incident was over I thought it might be nice to thank the kind fellow. Since I worked at the insurance office, I pulled the file and looked up his address and telephone number. Both were a part of the police report. I sent him a thank you card. It was returned a few days later telling me there was no such person at that address.

I attempted a phone call, but, you guessed it, there was no such number.

Sometimes guardian angels do have to make themselves three dimensional and I will always be certain that is what happened on that day.

But three dimensional or simply in spiritual form, I am very grateful for all of the times mine has taken action. I was assigned a good one!


Photo by Fotolia/Sashkin

Living and Loving

Linda WilliamsAt least 50 years of our more-than-half-century of marriage have included pets. When our kids were young, we had a terrier, poodle, and Pomeranian.

When our off spring left the house, we still yearned for the pitter patter of little feet. We knew dogs were work. They would take up our time, they would confine us to the house and even day trips would become difficult.

And so it was that on a cold day in March, a big yellow cat stormed out of the house across the street and made his way into our hearts. He simply did not like his owners. We think he felt ignored and unloved. “Charlie” became our pet and remained with us for 17 years. He was so streetwise we could let him wander about whenever and wherever he pleased.

It was not uncommon for him to cross two highways, tap his paw lightly on the door of a friendly looking house, have a saucer of milk and nap before returning to us. Needless to say there were many tears when that monster cancer that destroys so many of our loved ones got to Charlie. On a dreary February day, we had to bid him farewell.

By summer we were pet starved. We longed for the comfortable look of a cat curled up in the sunshine or waiting impatiently for us when we returned from a trip.

An ad on a bulletin board at the vet’s office led us to “Gracie”. “Free kittens,” the note had read. I told my husband I wanted only to look and we made arrangements to meet the tiny felines at a nearby church. Three little kittens with tails in the air greeted us and we quickly picked our little gray fuzz ball who weighed a pound and a half. Her size did not match her personality. A visit to the vet’s office to have her claws trimmed caused such a tremendous roar, other patients thought surely there must be a wild cat on the loose.

Photo by Fotolia/tsheburashka

Then, a week or so later, we were having breakfast on a warm summer morning. The hollyhocks were peeking over the hillside above our patio and the petunias were happily blooming by our breakfast nook.  Suddenly a blood curdling wail broke down the tranquility of this peaceful scene. What kind of animal could make such a mournful sound?

Within a day, the source of the noise revealed itself in the form of a playful white paw poking under the garden fence. Quickly, we opened the gate and grabbed a scared little white and wide eyed kitten, trembling and starving. Thankfully water had been available in the water gardens and bird bath.

And thus we became a two cat couple. Since neither of us is good at determining cat gender, we named it “Francis” and decided we could simply change the spelling if we were wrong.

Since we live near the highway, we are certain our second cat was thrown out of a car into a dark and stormy night. But, their loss was our gain.

Cats can bring such joy into aging lives. They keep us constantly laughing with their antics. Gracie thinks my slipper socks are her kittens. Francis brings us many offerings of dead (and sometimes live) chipmunks, mice, and gophers.

They aren’t a lot of work needing only to be fed, watered, brushed on occasion, and loved. If we leave for a day they fend for themselves. Longer trips require someone simply stopping by to refill the food dish.

To be on the safe side, they have a curfew that is observed with the shutting of the cat door. I wish I would have thought of this when I had teenagers.

Gracie and Francis may well be our last pets. That is, of course, if no other unwanted cats come strolling to our door needing love.

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