My mom is notoriously afraid of snakes.
Mice and swooping birds could probably be added to her short list, but snakes are definitely at the top. I remember a couple of times, whether it was while mowing the lawn or working in the garden, that she would scream for my father who would obligingly (if laughingly) come out and kill or chase off the offending serpent who dared to cross her path.
One summer, a very large snake took up residence in our lower pasture. Generally, it remained hidden, but it could sometimes be seen sunning itself on a large, flat rock on the edge of the creek that bisected the pasture.
On this particular afternoon, I walked out the lane with my mom in order to bring the cows in for the evening milking. She had convinced me to come with her with the tempting promise of seeing "the size of this snake."
The entrances to both the upper and lower pastures were adjacent to each other. A single, metal gate (similar to the one above) kept the cows in whichever field we placed them. That day, Mom pulled open the gate, allowing the cows out of the upper pasture. As they began to lumber down the lane, Mom and I entered the lower pasture, yanking the gate closed behind us. We didn't want the curious cows to think we were inviting them to join us.
We walked about forty feet to the section of the stream where the snake did most of its sun-bathing. Standing side-by-side, our toes at the edge of the overhang where a strong water flow had washed out the stream bed, we looked down at the flat rock on the other side of the creek.
Mom pointed and whispered, "That's where it usually is. Maybe it's nearby." We scanned the side of the creek to see if the snake were nearby. No sign.
Then we looked down. Inches from our toes was the snake. Curled up and snug on a smaller rock than its usual perch. Right in front of us.
Mom snorted with disgust. "You can't tell how long it is!" I stood over it, trying to gauge its size while she walked over to some small trees along the fence line. Grabbing a long stick, she rejoined me. "We'll get him to stretch out," she murmured.
Then, my mom poked the snake with a stick.
My mom poked the large snake that was mere inches from our toes.
With a yelp, my mom threw the stick in the general direction of the snake while instantaneously spinning around. She began sprinting across the field in a style reminiscent of sprinters I had, to that point, only witnessed on the Olympics. As she dashed toward the entrance of the pasture, she screamed, "Run! Run!'
At that point, running was an impossibility for me. Not because I was frozen in fear but because I was laughing too hard.
Mom raced toward the gate at full-speed. Toward the four-foot tall gate blocking her escape. As I watched with a mix of laughter and awe, she went over the gate.
She didn't scramble over it. She didn't grab the top of it with her hands and hoist herself over the top.
My mom hurdled that gate. Cleared it by a good five inches. It was Olympian in the manner of Mercury rather than Flo Jo.
Unaware of the superhuman feat she had just performed, she grabbed the gate, yanking and jerking desperately to pull it open in an attempt to rescue me, all the while screaming, "Run! It's going to get you!!"
I finally reached the gate, gasping for breath, tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks. Mom scolded me. "What's so funny? It could've gotten you!"
Yup. Yup, it could have. But it would have been worth it just to see her clear that gate...