Through the Fence 2-1-10
February 1, 2010
“Just remember,” my father said solemnly, “death is permanent …”
That was the stern warning and the only comment made when I told my parents one afternoon on the telephone that I was going water-skiing with some friends. I was 22. Seems a little over protective to me even now that I have my own young ‘uns. But, in his defense, Dad was nearly 50 when I was born, so I was more like a baby grandchild than a daughter. Mom was even more overprotective than he was. She was what I call a “hover mother,” just like a helicopter always hovering overhead to protect and defend her “babies.”
When I was a teenager, we lived on a Charolais cattle ranch in what was then a sleepy little cotton farming town a mere 25 miles from downtown Dallas. From our spacious patio, we could see the city skyline at night. It was an idyllic childhood spent entertaining friends, working summer gardens, riding horses and perfecting my tan. One of the great features of that house was a row of large plate glass windows that faced the patio. There, my fellow cheerleaders and I would practice our cheers for hours, looking at our reflections, synchronizing our moves and watching for any misstep. When we took a break, we’d jump on the trampoline or go for a dip in the 8-acre lake behind our house.
On one such afternoon, my cheerleading companions and I went wading. The others had already dried their feet off and were walking back towards the house when I spied a curious phenomenon. There were several hundred minnows right at the water’s edge wriggling and jumping. I walked out in the water for a closer look. Since I didn’t share my parents’ sense of foreboding, it never occurred to me that danger might be lurking in the muddy waters. Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my foot as if I had been stung by a bee or stepped on a thorn. It hurt but wasn’t excruciating. I never suspected the source of the pain, so after looking at the fish some more, I headed back to the house to finish practice.
After doing lots more jumping and sweating, I noticed the pain in my foot intensifying. When I looked down at my leg, ominous red streaks had crawled up my ankle and were approaching my calf. “Better notify the parentals,” I thought. When I went in and told Mom my foot was throbbing, like something had pricked me, she didn’t seem too concerned. “It was probably a wasp in the grass,” she said. But when I told her I was in knee-deep water, she sucked in a deep breath and dropped her kitchen rag onto the floor. Her face blanched instantly. “Oh, my Lord,” she gasped, “You’ve been bitten by a snake!”
I don’t know why that hadn’t occurred to me before. I was mildly upset, but not even close to the level of hysteria as her 10-Alarm-Mother-Alert. “Get in the car; we’re going to the hospital!”
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En route, the streaks continued their advance, so I pulled off my red hair ribbon and tied it like a tourniquet around my leg just below my knee. They admitted me to the hospital, and I vaguely remember our family doctor coming into my room for a look. With a quick glance she concurred that I had been snake bit, but most likely non-venomous. She prescribed some heavy duty drugs that knocked me out. I don’t remember anything else that happened that evening.
I was no worse for the incident, but was I quite the celebrity when I came back to school the next morning. For once, I didn’t have a fashion crisis before school. I just happened to have a little dress with a snakeskin pattern on it. It was a bit too conspicuous, but I just couldn’t resist. After that day, I’m surprised that my parents ever let me out of their sight again. They would shudder if they knew all the real dangers that I’ve faced and allowed my kids to face since moving to the “sticks.”