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Who Scared Who?

Kathy Dingus


Childhood...what a wonderful time for a child.  Well, at least most of the time.  There was several occasions in my growing up years that I would change if I could.  But we don't always have that luxury, I know.  My Dad was an adventurer and encouraged all four of us kids to be the same.

If there was anything that we were scared of, we sure had better keep it to ourselves, because Dad made it his personal agenda in life to see that we overcame anything that might be stronger than we were.

If we were scared of heights, well...we didn't stay that way for long.  He was take us to the Breaks Interstate Park and perch us out on the edge of the highest overlook with our backs to the gorge below, and dare us to move.  He'd then take our picture, taking his time to adjust his non automatic camera to just the right light and F stop to take a perfect picture.  In the meantime we were shaking in our shoes, but we survived, and after that we were no longer afraid of heights.

If we were afraid of the water, he'd fix that fear too.  He would hound us until we learned how to swim.  I remember him throwing me in the water until I sputtered and sputtered and finally kicked my way to the side of the pool.  Realizing that I would survive my head going under the surface of the water, I soon overcame my fear of being underneath the water, where there was no oxygen at all, and learned to swim.  My brothers were treated the same way.  After we got a little older, all of us under 13 years old...he would take us canoeing, at Laurel Lake in Kentucky.  His hobby at that particular time was making homemade canoes and he really made some beautiful ones.  He had to try them all out however, so we learned to canoe at an early age.  He would often take us out into the middle of the lake, and flip the canoe over without warning, and we had to both get ourselves to the bank, as well as his new canoe. 

If we were afraid of the dark, we'd have to sit in the dark until we learned that there was nothing out there in the night that wasn't there in the daytime. If we didn't like certain foods, we'd have to eat them until we could at least swallow them without gagging, such as brussel sprouts. I didn't like cheese or peanut butter growing up, so packing my lunch for school was a problem.  Mom would take pity on me and sprinkle brown sugar on my peanut butter sandwiches, and white sugar on my macaroni and cheese so I wouldn't have to spend hours at the dinner table until I cleaned my plate.

Life certainly was interesting growing up under Dad's watchful eye.  Mom was just as insistent that we learn to take care of ourselves.  The boys as well as us girls learned to cook, how to wash clothes and wash dishes.  Didn't hurt us a bit, that I can tell.

There was one fear however, that even good old Dad couldn't break me from; the fear of snakes.  I never ever ever like snakes.  I never ever ever will either.  But not from lack of my Dad's trying to get me used to them.

My Dad was mowing grass on the flat below our house one summer day, and I was making myself useful in the kitchen washing dishes, feeling rather proud that I was allowed  to stay inside while the boys had to slave outside in the hot summer sun cleaning up the yard.  I was humming a soft tune under my breath as I was about to put a whole stack of plates in the cabinet when I froze in my tracks.  I heard a hissing from behind me.  I turned around, with the plates in my hand and promptly dropped every one of them.  My Dad stood there, sneaking up behind me, with a little green snake in his hand, hissing as he tried to complete his covert mission to help me overcome my fear of snakes. 

After the plates hit the floor, and a blood curdling scream came from somewhere in my throat, I spun around and ran.  I ran to the first place I thought of, my safe place, my bedroom.  Tears were forming in my eyes as I thought of that hideous green snake curling and curling around my Dad's hand.  It was even bleeding a little, as Dad had hit it with the lawn mover and nicked it's tail.  That made it even worse, a bleeding, bloody snake!  Shudders ran through me at the very thoughts of actually holding it.  I quickly locked my door, thinking I was quite safe, that he wouldn't dare to break down my door. 

Heaving a sigh of relief I sank down on my bed and was congratulating myself on the quick get away I had made.  All of the sudden, I heard a sound at my window.  Being summer the window was up, letting the house get some air.  I think that was before we knew anything about air conditioning and it was really hot in the house.  I saw one long leg come through the window and then another, then my Dad's grinning face emerge from beneath the curtains.  I was paralyzed.  I couldn't believe my Dad had climbed in the window on me, and he still held that darn snake in his hand. 

Well, we came to a compromise my Dad and I.  I agreed to touch it, if he would leave me alone and take that snake back outside.  With eyes closed my hand inched toward the snake.  My hand connected with it's skin, but I couldn't for the life of me, tell you what that snake felt like.  My Dad was satisfied though, and he did leave me alone.  He often caught long black snakes, sometimes over six feet long, and put them in the barn.  He said it was good for the mouse population.

Anyway, that's one fear I couldn't conquer, I'm still afraid of snakes.  But looking back on that day, I wondered who was more frightened of whom, me of the snake, or the snake of me?  Just a thought, but I don't think I want to find out that badly.  That poor little green snake probably slithered back to it's momma snake to whine about it's lost tip of it's tail, and I got a memory I'll never forget.  An even trade I suppose. I'm not going to b holding any more snakes to find out!