Vol. 12


Saved by a 71-Year-Old

c. 1984; Pike County, Alabama, USA"Saved by a 71-Year-Old" illustration: A sneaker enters from the left as a rattlesnake shakes its rattles in the grass nearby

On a summer afternoon in 1984 my mother was at her grandparents’ farm near Brundidge, a small town in Pike County, Alabama. Her ten-year-old self was sitting in her “typical perch,” a fig tree in the side yard. Her 71-year-old grandfather came outside with his walking stick, a metal coffee can, and a Boston terrier named Scooter. Her grandmother wanted them to go pick a coffee can full of blackberries so she could make cobbler for dessert that night. So they started walking down the dirt road towards the wild blackberry patch on the farm.

Even though both of them knew there were snakes on the farm, they did not think they would run into any, because they had never seen any on the road. They were walking and talking when all of a sudden my mother heard the unnerving sound of a rattlesnake’s tail. She looked down, and her foot was hovering over a rattlesnake that was ready to strike.

She froze, not knowing what to do. Scooter took off back to the house, running as fast as her little legs could take her. Scooter had been bitten on the foot the previous year, and even the noise of a fly buzzing frightened her.

Before my mother could think, her grandfather threw her through the air with one arm and began beating the snake with his walking stick. My mother sat on the ground staring at her grandfather, who was very elderly in her eyes, trying to catch her breath. The snake was coiling around in strange shapes as he hit it. Finally he decapitated the snake.

They didn’t have blackberry cobbler that night. “Thank you for saving me,” she told her grandfather as they walked back to the house. She felt terrified, but she was also thankful for her grandfather’s reaction. It was satisfying knowing that someone would do that for her if she were in danger. It is one of my mother’s most vivid memories of her grandfather that she doesn’t think will ever go away. Even though it was a scary experience, she enjoys the memory of walking with her grandfather. The old man she saw as simply her grandfather was suddenly a hero.

Lily Naylor; Alabama, USA

Illustrator: Mia Schaefer; Missouri, USA



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