As Rawel reared up, the buckboard came to an abrupt halt, tossing Pearl and the other children riding in its back to its bed.
Rawel, a gentle-natured red mule, seldom became agitated, but in this instance he just couldn’t help but get his back up as a rattlesnake coiled up in front of him tried to strike at his legs.
Rawel used all he had to try to land on the snake’s head as he bucked, but it was a shot from Grandpa Bill’s Colt .45 that laid the snake flat.
Grandpa quickly jumped down to comfort Rawel and see if any of the rattler’s strikes had hit their mark. He carefully followed up and down Rawel’s legs, and thankfully the snake’s aim was in vain.
Grandpa then went over and checked out the snake, and found he had not lost he touch as the bullet had passed gracefully through the snake’s head. He walked back to the buckboard and pulled out a burlap sack, he then carefully placed the snake inside and told Pearl and the other kids to keep their arms and legs away from it.
“Why?” Pearl asked.
“Well, those critters have a way of biting you even after they’re dead. Once we get home and I get him skinned and cleaned, I’ll bury the head so it will no longer be a trouble to anyone,” he said.
“They’ll bite you after they’re dead?” Pearl asked.
“I guess that has something to do with the fact that it was the serpent that the old devil used to trick Adam and Eve,” Grandpa said.
“How’s that?” she asked.
“I reckon that those poor critters are meant to be as mean in death as they were in life, and they just never get a chance to be nice to no one,” he said.
“Oh,” she said. “There sure are a lot of folks that are like them critters. I mean they are mean. Just take Wendy Sue McAllister up in seventh grade. She is always picking on all the girls who wear homemade clothes, making fun of us and calling us Homesewn Sallies.”
“Now Pearl, you got to realize that some folks just aren’t as well off as we are,” he said. “They don’t have someone who can take a few pieces of pretty cloth and some string and make a tailor-made outfit as beautiful as you have on. They have to go all the way to town and try on clothes right off the rack. Why them things don’t have a stitch of love sewn in them anywhere cause the people that sewed them didn’t know who they were for.”
“So, I have a better dress than what she has?” Pearl asked.
“Much better,” he said.
“Does this mean that Wendy Sue McAllister really isn’t like one of them there mean, creepy-crawly snakes?” she asked.
“Just cause her folks don’t care enough about her to make her clothes, she wants to take it out on all you that do. I would say that makes her a little mean, but there is always a root to every bit of meanness. If you work hard enough to overcome it you can find that there is some good down in there, too,” he said.
“It must be way down there,” Pearl said.
“Maybe, Maybe,” he said as Rawel’s hooves guided the buckboard back toward the old farmhouse that sits below the Gravelly Spur Mountain.Randall Franks is an award-winning musician, singer and actor. He is best known for his role as “Officer Randy Goode” on TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” now on Turner South. His latest CD release, “God’s Children,” is by etrecordshop.com. He is a columnist and staff writer for The Catoosa County News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.