In 1971, Jean, the boys and I moved from Texas to Columbine Hills near Littleton, Colorado. A couple of years later, new neighbors moved into the house immediately behind us. The family consisted of Ed and Mary Lynn Netherland, their three daughters and their son, Chuck. They immediately greeted us and reached over the back fence with a heaping platter of homemade cinnamon rolls.
They joined our church and Sunday School class. Chuck and our son Jeff became close friends. Even with a hint of a problem with our cars or our house and Ed would appear at the door with tools in hand and the “know how” to take care of the problem. It seemed that we would never be able to repay the Netherlands for all the wonderful things that they had done for us.
Late one warm autumn night the opportunity to repay arrived. I must have been in the deepest portion of my sleep when the telephone rang. Eventually I found the phone and could hear Mary Lynn’s trembling voice say “Jim, could you come over and help me? There’s a snake loose in my bedroom.”
She went on to say that Ed was in the hospital and that she had been awakened by a rustling sound. The sound had come from a box of ceramics packed in shredded newspapers. The box was by the window and she could see the silhouette of the snake rising out of the shredded papers,
She apologized for calling in the middle of the night but didn’t want to disturb the whole neighborhood by the arrival of the fire department. There was terror in Mary Lynn’s voice and there was terror in my heart. I had always been deathly frightened by anything resembling a slimy snake-like creature. I knew that I had to overcome my fear because my good friends were in danger.
I told her that I would be there right away. The “right away’” took twenty minutes or more since I had to dress for the safari and gather my weapons. I wore my steel-toed oil field boots and my long pants were secured to the boots by rubber bands. That snake was not going to sliver up my legs. I wore a safari vest, gloves and a cap. I grabbed my hoe, sharp shovel and large flashlight and was ready for battle. Jean said “You are not going without me. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”
We finally arrived and were met at the door by Mary Lynn. She rushed us up the stairs to her bedroom. Jean was not going to risk her life so remained in the hall. Mary Lynn and I closed the door and placed a towel at the base so the rest of the house would be safe and it would limit our battleground.
The search of the box revealed nothing but ceramics. Mary Lynn lunged toward the dresser and I kept my hoe in attack position ready to pounce. Mary Lynn picked up one corner of the dresser and dragged it away from the wall. The varmint was not there. Mary Lynn uttered that she had never been able to budge that dresser before. Fear must have given her the strength that was needed.
This left the closet the only place to search. Mary Lynn slowly opened the double doors and I maintained my attack position. There he was coiled and ready to strike. While he was deciding which one of us to hit first, I hit him with a killing blow from my hoe. I repeatedly chopped away and he soon looked like link sausage. Wow! We were the victors.
We removed the towel and stepped into the hall to tell Jean of our success. Before we could finish the story we heard a sleepy pathetic voice from Chuck’s bedroom say “Did Mr. Pershall kill my snake?” Mary Lynn shouted to him “What do you mean your snake?” Chuck said that he bought the snake at the mall and brought him home in his pocket. As we slowly crept out of the house we could hear Mary Lynn admonish Chuck with “If that snake had gotten loose in the car, I probably would have wrecked it and killed both of us.
As we returned to our yard, we noticed that except for the sleeping boys’ bedrooms, every light was on in the house. We suddenly realized that we didn’t have the house keys but it didn’t matter since we had forgotten to lock the back door.
That episode helped cure my fear of small snakes. Since then I have bravely chopped up several small snakes in our yard and our neighbor’s garage. Best of all I finally found a small way to repay Ed.