The Great Chase

 D. E. Larsen, DVM

The fourth of July was always big for my mother’s family. A large potluck picnic was held in the Davenport Grove on Catching Creek. This had been a family tradition started in 1904.

The grove was a large group of myrtle and maple trees located on a hairpin curve of Catching Creek. There was a large picnic table constructed on the place. This table had been there my entire life. There was a fire pit that had a fire going most of the day, and the fire was really built up when the evening chill started.

This particular fourth of July in 1960 was no different from any of the others. All the families had gathered in the late morning, and then a massive lunch followed.

After lunch, everyone stood around talking and waiting for the various activities to start. There was always a softball game, usually organized by Uncle Ernie. And also stuff for the little kids.

I was fifteen that year and earning my money working on the various family farms for the summer. Silo filling and hay hauling were the order of the day. One thing I learned that summer was that one of my mother’s brothers, Uncle Rodney, had an actual phobia of snakes.

When we were hauling hay, and a bale was encountered with a dead snake visible in the bale, I always tried to arrange for Uncle Rodney to handle that bale. I would laugh, along with my other uncles, as Rodney would jump and run from the bale.

Age-wise, I was in the lower third of the cousins in my generation. We were a large family. Mom had nine brothers and sisters, and there were around twenty-six cousins in my generation. By now, we also had the next generation, with many younger cousins.

My sister’s daughter, Julie, was four years old that year. Linda, my sister, and Chuck were in the process of moving back to Oregon from Mississippi, where Chuck had been going to school. Chuck was a forester, and Julie was well versed in the out of doors.

That is the setting as I walked with Julie and Kim, a granddaughter of Uncle Rodney, out in the field to find something for them to do before the games started. 

We were just out of the grove when a little garter snake crossed our path. Julie is the one that spotted it, and she was dying to pick it up.

I secured the snake with my foot and picked it up with my fingers behind its head. 

“Do you know how to hold it?” I asked Julie. 

“Yes, I have done it before,” she said.

Kim was less than excited about the snake.

Julie took the snake from me with no problem. I pointed to Uncle Rodney, standing at the end of the long picnic table with one foot on the bench. He was talking with a group of his sisters and sisters-in-law. 

“You go give this snake to Kim’s grandpa,” I said.

And off these two little girls go, with Julie holding the little snake out in front of her. The snake was wiggling and squirming from her grip as it was the reluctant member of this motley crew.

These two little girls marched right up to Uncle Rodney, and he paid no attention to them until Julie spoke.

With the two girls standing next to him, Julie lifted the snake high, and Kim said, “Look what we have for you, Grandpa.”

Rodney jumped and screamed; if a grown man can scream. He took off running. Julie and Kim were in hot pursuit, with Julie holding the snake out in front of her. The girls were giggling now, and Rodney was trying to shoo them away.

All the aunts were trailing behind. Afraid that Rodney would have a heart attack but not too sure that they wanted to catch the girls with the snake.

So the chase was on; Rodney led the way, winding through the massive trees of the grove with the two little girls and the snake right behind him. Then the aunts followed. I was laughing at the procession. I had no idea it would turn into such an event.

Finally, Mom caught up with Julie, and they went over to the creek bank and disposed of the poor little snake. It took Rodney a full fifteen minutes to calm himself and return to the conversations.

Later, Mom approached me with a frown on her face.

“Did you put those little girls up to that?” she asked.

“Julie wanted to pick up the snake, and I helped her,” I said. “I had no idea that they would chase Uncle Rodney. It was sort of funny to watch.”

“You know that man can’t stand snakes of any kind,” Mom said, still frowning. “He could have fallen over dead.”

So that turned out to be the big event for the picnic that year, and everyone survived.


A couple of weeks later, I was unloading hay bales into Uncle Rodney’s barn. The uncles were taking the bales off the escalator and stacking them in the hay mow. In the middle of the truckload was a bale with a dead snake wound up on the top of the bale.

I set it aside until I had it calculated that Rodney would pick up that bale off the escalator. I placed the bale on the escalator and waited for the response.

Uncle Rodney retrieved the bale and started to the stack before he noticed the snake. He threw the bale in one direction, and following his little scream, he ran the other.

Photo by Thomas Shockey on Pexels.

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

One thought on “The Great Chase

  1. That wasn’t very nice. A phobia against snakes is a very important survival mechanism. It is deeply rooted in our unconsciousness. Same for arachnophobia and a fear of heights, all just making sure you don’t die.

    Liked by 1 person

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