So I’m leaving this lake house in northwest Arkansas, navigating our Toyota minivan onto the dirt road, and I see a huge snake sunning in the afternoon heat. My “be kind to God’s creatures” instincts kicked in and I aimed my tires to pass on either side of him. Just before sparing him, I saw the markings – the earthy argyle of a diamondback rattlesnake.
It is incredible how quickly my heart changed. In one instant, my life story shrunk into this tiny moment playing out in real time. I knew I must kill this beast before he killed one of the six children playing only a stones throw away. I made my minivan a weapon, throwing it in reverse to try and leave a tire-sized impression on him, but I was a moment too late. Like a slow, low, and sinister sound wavelength, he oscillated into the tall, dry grass that lined the dirt road.
I leapt from the Sienna. I could still see his back half and in my blood-lust I actually considered grabbing at his tail and whipping him around like the second coming of Steve Irwin. All I could think was, ” I must kill this thing.” I picked up the biggest rock around my feet, threw it… and missed. It was getting away. I picked up a second rock and heard my dad from the passenger seat of my van say, “quit playing with it and get back in the car!” I looked back as the great serpent disappeared, slinking into the dirt and tumble-brush of the Ozarks.
The worst part is, I’m an adult with 3 kids, and I totally reverted back to the scolded child of my youth, hurriedly casting the last stone and climbing back into the car. I drove away with a grumble in my brain, imagining how this story would end were Rudyard Kipling at the narrative helm. Somebody is going to die. A pet, a nephew or niece, a child of my own… by letting the snake go free I was sure I had sealed another to a poison-fanged fate. It was not until days later that I was glad I was spared the blood of the diamondback.
School starts in a few days, and one of my kids was really worried about a bully that made life hard sometimes last year. Part of my encouragement revolved around not living in fear, and living a good story. It is what’s wonderful about great stories… you really don’t know what is going to happen next. And to quote Albus Dumbledore, “The consequences of our actions are so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”
I remembered, I must live a life not motivated by fear “just in case” something bad may happen down the road. I must live motivated by love and faith – whether facing Gods lowest creatures, or a difficult neighbor. This is the kind of story I want to write with my life.
Now I’m glad the snake got away, though I hope he stays gone, or maybe gets squished by a bear.