I can remember being chided as a child for using the word “hate!” As children do…I would exclaim that I hated something or someone and my mother would correct me. She told me that you can dislike or strongly dislike something…but you should never hate anything. This lesson has stood me well in life, because she was right when she told me that hating something or someone only hurts the person doing the hating. I believe this was true for all things for Mom except one thing…she hated snakes!
One of Mom’s first memories regarding snakes was probably when she was about five years old. She was with her father and he was checking his fields. She was enjoying herself, because he carried her on his shoulders because the wheat was high enough that she couldn't see over it. All of a sudden, he stopped and set her down. Mom noticed that a large snake lay just a few feet away. Her father took out his gun and shot the snake and then proceeded to shoot the babies that came out of its mouth. It was a rattlesnake and her father didn't want it around to hurt anyone…especially him. Her mother encouraged a healthy “hate” for snakes as well. She would tell stories of always carrying a gun when going hunting with her husband. She used to tell stories about when she was a child up on Grouse Flats and the dog would bring in a frozen rattlesnake that it had found curled up somewhere outside. Evidently the dog thought it would be a fun toy to play with…until my great grandfather found the snake near the stove, just beginning to thaw out.
So, Mom had a good healthy “hate” for snakes… didn't matter if it was poisonous or harmless, live or stuffed, she wanted nothing to do with them. So when our family was walking down into Fish Lake when I was a child and I proclaimed “Look, at the cute little snakey!” Mom believed it was time to brainwash me. A few years later when I saw a garter snake coming out of the rocks and started wailing in fear, she knew she had done her job well. I can remember my older brother being quite disgusted when he picked up and took it away. (Her brainwashing didn't work on him) She loved children but when one of the little boys would run up to her carrying a snake, she would back away in terror…the child would pay for his torment later. As Mom got older…her “hatred” never abated. Mom and Dad’s bedroom wasn't a large one and she used to say that it was almost wall to wall bed. They had some furniture in there as well. So, when Mom dreamed one night of a snake coiling up to strike her, she swung her foot away and hit the dresser. Needless to say she woke up…she had broken her toe. Dad probably had a hard time showing the appropriate sympathy because he was laughing at her. Mom actually had to even laugh about that one.
I don’t think Mom ever saw a snake she liked. If there was one slithering across the TV screen, the channel was immediately changed. Going into the reptile room at the zoo with her granddaughter was not an option either. As much as she loved watching “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the scenes with all the snakes was hard for her. She probably had her head turned away the whole time. I remember Mom warning me about the scenes so I would be prepared.
I still don’t like snakes…Mom trained me well in that respect. However, I don’t think I ever “hated snakes” like Mom did. Dad and I still smile when we see a snake slithering across the TV screen and say “Mom wouldn't like that!” I took Mom’s lesson to heart and have never really used the word “hate!” She was right – the word was hurtful to the person doing the hating. The one thing that she truly “hated” in her life were snakes and they caused her many a nightmare…as well as a broken toe!