By Sue Murphy
Strong women: May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.”
I’m reading “Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs,” by Heather Lende. She begins by chronicling her recovery from literally being run over by a truck. She endured months of surgeries and rehab, with only a 50/50 chance of being able to walk again. But she did walk, returning home to Haines, Alaska, to hunt and fish and write and be attuned to the joys in life. A strong woman, indeed.
I come from a long line of strong women. When my dad didn’t cut the grass under the clothesline fast enough, my 90-year-old great-grandmother cut it herself with a scythe. My grandmother possessed a quiet strength, dealing with one leg being significantly shorter than the other her entire life. My mom once killed a copperhead with a hatchet at our Brownie day camp.
Me? I think I am strong in my own way, but I definitely did not inherit the snake-killing gene. Thank goodness, one of my neighbors did.
A few months ago, a 3-foot snake slithered through the backyard fence slats and ducked under the plastic chest that holds my birdseed. I’d like to say that I sprang into action and deftly handled the situation, but when it comes to snakes, my deft is puny at best. Nope, I froze … unfroze long enough to get Dave up on the deck … and froze again.
The snake couldn’t stay. That was clear. With Dave’s penchant for sticking his nose where it does not belong, he would end up in the doggie emergency room for sure. With that picture firmly in mind, I did the bravest thing I could muster: I started calling people. My next-door neighbors on both sides weren’t home. My woodsman friend said, “Just make some noise. It will go away. It’s probably a good snake, anyway.” This was not what I wanted to hear. And so, I phoned my neighbor Vickie who, in a moment of supreme kindness, had said, “If you ever need anything …” Be careful what you say.
Vickie’s husband is always outside working on their impeccable lawn, so I figured he might have some experience with snakes, but it was Vickie herself who said, “I’ll be right over.”
Now, to fully appreciate the enormity of this gesture, you need to know that Vickie is not a burly gal. She is about my age and a few inches shorter than me, a woman supremely talented in all things house and home, and yet she appeared at my back gate a few minutes later, brandishing a sharp, long-handled implement. She did not hesitate for a second but set about locating and eliminating the snake. I will spare you the gory details, but I will tell you that the only help I gave was to move the birdseed chest and hold a bracing shovel … with my eyes closed.
I’d like to say that things will be different next time, that I will man (woman) up and take care of the next snake by myself, but I know I won’t. Too many adverse snake memories in my psyche. I went as far as buying my own long-handled cutting implement, but it will have to be used by someone else.
And so, I send out this column as a puny thank you. There will be more. There will have to be more, but right now, I want to honor my friend, Vickie the Snake Slayer, a woman as strong as they come. I’m proud (and thankful) to know her.